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  • Skyla Jewell-Hammie

Do Black Employees With Desirable Skills Not Exist, or Are Companies Not Looking Hard Enough?




Working while Black is just another common obstacle of being a Black person in corporate America. As a Black and Indigenous woman, I was horrified to learn that Black women are paid 39% less than white men, and 29% less than white women, according to a study found by Fortune. Companies are investing in diversity and inclusion, but BIPOC people need to be appreciated for their skills, not profiting off another chance for a company to “rebrand.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states, “As amended, protects employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII protection covers the full spectrum of employment decisions, including recruitment, selections, terminations, and other decisions concerning terms and conditions of employment,” according to the Federal Trade Commission Website. Although this Civil Rights Act was created to end discrimination, it still exists, and it is hurting the opportunities of many talented Black and brown individuals. It is still here, just tucked neatly under the rug, and disguised as another.

Systemic racism runs deep within recruiting employees, and it cannot be fixed by creating diversity and inclusion workshops as a way to pledge for workspace equity. Knowing diversity and inclusion is common sense, and it shouldn't need to be branded as a “workshop” to cure structural racism.

Instead, recruiters need to actively vouch to change the rate of unemployment rates based on heartbreaking disparities that shouldn't exist. 86.4% of general operation managers in the US are white, while only 6.8% are Black. Among all chief executives in the US, only 3.5% are Black, while 89.5% are white, according to HR Daily Advisor.

Black employees with desirable skills exist, but that's not what HR department algorithms are paying attention to. Technology is growing and advancing by the minute, and with that, comes cost-saving, digitalized decision-making for workplaces, according to Business Research Journal (Köchling, A., Wehner, M.C.).

These digital systems allow the reviewing of countless applications at once and feed into hidden talents, which enhances the productivity of the department, and increases the aspect of certainty in decision-making, according to Suen et al. 2019; Mcdonald et all. 2017 study.

But, at what cost?

It enhances the productivity of the HR departments, but what does that do for the countless Black applicants who are skipped over based on the “unique” spellings of some of their names, or where they are from? Studies have concluded that employers more likely to select candidates with names like “Emily” or “Greg” for interviews almost 50% more often than candidates with names like “Lakisha” or “Jamal.” Furthermore, having a “white-sounding” name is equivalent to about eight years of work experience, according to the same study.

These statistics are just one out of many when it comes to “diversity hiring.” Your resume should say where you are from and that includes where you went to school and past companies you worked for. If an employer sees someone is from a “bad area,” their application is automatically dismissed. What about where someone comes from, and where they call home, calls for stereotypical assumptions?

If a callback is ensued, a face-to-face interview may happen next. Before going into an interview, I would trade in my tight and fine curls for pin-straight hair that resembles my white counterparts. Why is that?

I thought that by straightening my hair, maybe it would improve my chances of getting the job. I did get the job, but then I showed up to work with box braids the next week. My manager wasn't happy, but I was, knowing that I was being myself at work for not only myself, but for the countless men and women who have to change the tone of their voice or hair to appear more “professional.” Seeing how much “professional” attributes exclude Black individuals, only furthers racial bias in the workplace.


References

DewarContributor, written byJen, et al. “Where Unconscious Bias Creeps into the Recruitment Process.” Lever, 26 July 2018, www.lever.co/blog/where-unconscious-bias-creeps-into-the-recruitment-process/. “Protections Against Discrimination and Other Prohibited Practices.” Federal Trade Commission, 1 May 2019, www.ftc.gov/site-information/no-fear-act/protections-against-discrimination. Suen et al. 2019; Mcdonald et all. 2017 Team, HR Daily Advisor Content. “Diverse Hiring: Factors That Contribute to Systemic Racism (Infographic).” HR Daily Advisor, 23 Sept. 2020, hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2020/09/23/diverse-hiring-factors-that-contribute-to-systemic-racism-infographic/.



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