Off the bat, I am going to say that they are as fair as you make them.
That being said, I believe that having a diversity strategy and an accompanying outline policy and procedure is the first step in the right direction. However, with any policy or program, an equitable execution requires both interpretation and context to accurately apply- and this is where the root of unbiased diversity creation rests.
Using a diversity strategy in any blanket sense of application can do more harm than good, and actually create a form of reverse discrimination. If you have a minority group in which your diversity strategy addresses including this group in your work force and has procedures in place to ensure that the ‘playing field’ is leveled for them, you inherently are placing all other candidates at a drawback in order to do so. Its sort of confusing to think that removing an advantage from one group makes it fair for all, but that is only one strategy, and perhaps isn’t part of your corporate strategy at all, and that’s totally ok…
I think that having a true alignment with your business’s culture and mandate is key to being able to be transparent about your diversity strategy, and the statement of it. A key element of what is ‘fair’ is always in the eye of the beholder, and is all based on perception. In order to ensure that your program is being perceived as intended, honest and forthright communication of it is integral.
The other piece is that the diversity strategy needs to be just that- truly strategic. This means it is applied with thought and careful to precision to only tip the scales when appropriate and needed.
Regardless of what side of the program one was on, the side of the minority or majority, I’d find it fairer to know that if there is a diversity strategy in place, and that closes a door for a candidate at this time, that another door will be opened for that candidate in another situation. In a grander sense, that as much as there is a tipping of the scale at one moment, that an equal and opposite tipping back the opposite favour is inevitable and will happen. In really deconstructed example: if sex was the factor at hand, if this time around the scales were tipped in the favour of a woman, perhaps then to be equitable they would be tipped in the favour of a man the next time, either through action or passivity.
Maybe that last example was a bit too much and a bit of a loose end. But, I think the factor remains is that these programs are inherently good, and have been needed and that it boils down to application, not existence of the programs that dictates the equitableness.