Monday, August 11, 2008

Is it right for a company to encourage racial minorities to apply for a job?

Dear Diversity Diva: The other day while looking at job postings in my field, a top company had a job opening for a midlevel professional, adding that they were encouraging racial minorities to apply. Not only did that offend me, but I feel discouraged from applying because I’m white. — Peeved by Posting
Dear Peeved: I hear you loud and clear.
Basically you’re offended because a company that you really want to work for seems to blatantly be stating that you’re not a desirable candidate because of your race. At least that’s the way you took the posting.
I’m sure that you’re equally offended when you go for a job interview and just about everyone you see is white — with no visible diversity to be found. I mean you are offended by that too, right?
Because while one seeming preference may be openly stated, the other is openly practiced. Whether the lack of diversity within an organization is purposeful, accidental or just due to indifference, in the eyes of the average qualified candidate who doesn’t fit the profile, it can look as blatantly offensive and unsettling as the job posting was to you.
A black man (actually, a biracial man) might be our next president, but CNN has yet to break the news that workplace discrimination and glass ceilings no longer exist.
When companies openly advertise for diversity, by any other name, it still smells like affirmative action. For some, no matter how well they understand the historical and contemporary reasons for extra recruiting, at some level it still feels unfair.
But feelings don’t replace facts.
For example, in the specific posting you mentioned, the company sought midlevel minority candidates, which means they’re narrowing the field of whom they want to apply to not just any old person of color, but for a racial minority with several years of experience in the field. In other words, would you be qualified anyway to apply if the posting said “particularly interested in white candidates”?
Also, when a company goes to that much extra trouble of including wording like that in a job advertisement, it’s most likely because their current work force is so decidedly monochromatic that it has become a problem for clients or customers and members of that work force who care about diversity and inclusion.
For every handful of whites who saw that posting and was resentful that it specifically seemed to target minority applicants, there was a minority candidate suspicious about why the company had to go out of their way to encourage minorities to apply in the first place.

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