How Job And Name Discrimination Can Hurt A Business And A Career

02/20/2017 12:46 am ET
China Daily

Warren Buffet, who has amassed an outrageous fortune few others will ever see, is a white male. Barack Obama, our former President, is a black male.

Put both of these men’s resumes in line for a potential job interview and which do you suppose will receive the most calls? Most of us know the answer: Hiring discrimination based on names and/or assumptions regardless of credentials can hurt a company and a great many individuals.

It could be happening to you as a job seeker, or it could be hurting your business’s reputation as a recruiter of top talent.

What’s In A Name?

Quite a lot apparently, thanks to pre-employment scrutiny. First names are a growing cultural barrier to an already abysmal job market for Europeans, African Americans, Indians and everyone not named John. Around the world, prejudice and/or preconceived notions about people continues to infiltrate even the most basic of civil rights: earning a living.

  • Because a concrete definition of discrimination by law varies in legal interpretation from state to state, employers are often able to bend the discriminatory line.
  • Carnegie Mellon researchers discovered that, particularly in more conservative states, applicants who self-identified as Muslim on their social media profiles were contacted by prospective employers at a lower rate nationwide than Christians with the exact same names and qualifications.

People might assume this only happens during the resume screening process. But once an applicant walks in the door for an interview, it can get worse. An openly gay man or an Hispanic person with an accent faces stunning odds against landing jobs in many environments.

The net effect is two fold: 1) your decision to discriminate for all of the wrong reasons has a negative impact on many lives, and 2) this lack of ethics undermines your company’s reputation, recruiting activities, and overall internal moral.

In today’s world, your reputation is your name. And once your reputation is soiled along these lines, it’s a near impossible thing to set right.

Commitment, Loyalty and Turnover

Employees who regularly observe discrimination are less likely to stay, which increases your turnover levels. Is your company's voluntary turnover high? If so, most likely you are losing skilled, competent workers.

Some sobering stats for 2016:

  • 32.6% of American workers are engaged (Gallup)
  • 29% of millennials are engaged at work, 16% are actively disengaged, 55% are not engaged (Gallup)
  • 67% of decision-makers say they’re more concerned about turnover at their organizations now than they were 12 months ago (Randstad)
  • 37% of employers say turnover has picked up over the past 12 months; 16% say it’s dropped off (Willis Towers Watson)
  • 53% of HR pros say that the highest priority in the coming year is to retain top talent (Xerox)
  • 59% of US workers are likely to leave their jobs for new opportunities (Adobe)

Practically speaking, recruiting and training replacements are costly propositions. And if employees find there to be no future for them at your company, they’ll be less invested in the job and are always less committed and loyal to the business. Constant turnover can also lead to long term employee burnout — no one wants to keep training an endless stream of new staff members.

Even the best person will eventually move on, leaving you with a gallery of time servers who are anything but effective.

Reputation & Recruitment

It’s a mistake to underestimate the effect that unhappy employees can have on your reputation—and your recruitment success.

It was a lot easier to get away with discriminatory practices before the days of the internet. Since that time, websites like Glassdoor now give a voice to employees and former employees on multiple levels.

Discriminatory practices can now have a near immediate effect on your company's reputation. Job seekers, upon reading a plethora of negative comments about you and/or your company, can and will give you a pass.

In a service-based business, it gets worse. Your clients (or potential ones) may take their dollars elsewhere if they perceive your employment policies as inferior, leading them to question the level of service for certain groups of people based upon your disgruntled employee feedback.

Savvy jobseekers will always perform due diligence about you before applying for a position—this can have a chilling effect on the caliber of employees you are able to attract, and send top candidates to look elsewhere.

Civil Rights, Racism & Homophobia Around The World

Many people have claimed to dislike the idea of "special rights," when it comes to making laws to stop people from discriminating -- unless of course it helps them. Ben Carson said as much about gays, conveniently forgetting how laws were changed in America so blacks could enjoy equal rights.

Equality is NOT an "extra" right; the battle for civil rights didn't start with black people and it didn't end with them. Prejudice isn't just an American issue, either. Nor is it homegrown in the USA.

  • Ancient Greece and Rome fought wars of conquest against peoples they presumed to be less advanced.
  • Religious scholars interpreted the Hebrew Bible's "curse of Ham" from the story of Noah to condemn Africans to slavery.
  • Although the concepts of "race" and "racism" are modern inventions, they arose and became part of the dominant ideology of society in the context of the African slave trade at the dawn of capitalism in the 1500s and 1600s. Prior to this, skin color didn't matter.
  • Among American Indians, it's well-documented that even before Europeans began to push westward, tribes like the Mandan and the Shoshone were greatly mistreated by other tribes, such as the Black Feet and Lakota.
  • African Racism is multi-faceted, dating back several centuries and continuing to this day.

Regardless of the many advances, racism, homophobia, colorism and prejudice are still prevalent around the world -- and not just from white people...

  • Africana tend to be homophobic, often using religious arguments as excuses (case in point, Uganda). Compiling results from four surveys conducted over nearly two years, a Pew Center study in March of 2013 found 40 percent of African-Americans support marriage equality; 48 percent opposing.
  • As of 2013, black gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 accounted for more new HIV infections than any other group in the United States. Phil Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute estimated that half of young, black, gay men are infected.
  • And in 2011, Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH, stated that part of the cause is the stigma against homosexuality in the black community: "The disparity is not only of African Americans who are disenfranchised from health care," Fauci said, "but also the difficulty of social acceptance."

In China, job discrimination is also prevalent. According to China Daily, Chinese job application forms contain a seriously larger amount of personal data than do our forms in the USA.

Although there’s scant evidence as to how this information is used, there appears to be enough discrimination to warrant numerous watch-dog agencies.

China Daily

Said Zhang Qianfan, law professor of Peking University: “The presence of these (types of) personal information questions allows employers to discriminate (against) people without declaring it."

Name Supremacy

Establishing supremacy in American names is impossible, since it's relatively safe to say 90% (or more) of Americans have some European, Asian, Hispanic or African roots.

Besides which, according to millions of Americans – many of whom were white – Barack Obama was employable enough to land himself in a major USA leadership role, a feat that Al Gore and John McCain failed twice to accomplish...

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