According to a study by the University of Oxford(1), discrimination against POC has remained unchanged in 50 years. Using the same CV and cover letters, 24% of white British origin applicants got a positive response versus 15% of minority ethnic applicants. People with Middle Eastern and north African backgrounds need to send 90% more job applications than white Britons.
This isn’t just unconscious bias.
Employers need to do more to combat both overt racism and unconscious bias. Studies (2) have shown that even pro-diversity employers still actively discriminate at the application stage leaving candidates wondering whether to ‘whiten’ their CV. Diversity data needs to be more than data… many organisations collect it and then do little to analyse or action it. As understood by proponents of intersectionality, equality involves comprehending all forms of oppression, and how they intersect and interact. Therefore, separating gender or ethnicity from each other, or other factors such as disability or sexuality, isn’t a realistic way to look at equality in the workplace
We are too gentle. We are barely prepared to admit unconscious bias let alone discuss overt racism and acknowledge white privilege, its history and why it continues. This needs to change to have any impact on systemic racism in our society and employment practices.
Recruiters, both in-house and agency, are challenged every day with poor or no feedback on applications and interviews with bias (conscious or unconscious) creeping in at all stages. We need to get stronger on understanding the selection criteria and getting clarity on how these have and haven’t been met for each candidate. How does this work with Talent acquisition practices with proactive pipelining of candidates, against unclear or no job specifications, a greater reliance on video interviewing post the covid-19 pandemic and proactively sourcing candidates where their image is the first thing you see?
The potential benefit to the UK economy from full representation of BME individuals across the labour market, through improved participation and progression, is estimated to be £24 billion a year, which represents 1.3% of GDP (3)
I would love to hear from employers that have put some good practices in place or those that may be interested in improving their practices. I would be happy to help with auditing your attraction and selection methods or providing appropriate training in unconscious bias, interview techniques and good recruitment practices.
1) Centre for Social Investigation, Nuffield College Oxford 2019
2) DeCelles, Kang, Tilcsik and Jun -Whitened Resumes: Race and Self presentation in the Labor Market (2016)
3) Race in the Workplace: The McGregor-Smith review (2017)
Thank you to enei for the image