Harmony Day started in Australia in 1999, chosen to take place on the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination day it marks the day in 1960 when South African Police massacred 69 people protesting apartheid and black segregation policies. When put in these terms Harmony Day demands us to take a genuine look at our sectors, companies, and ourselves to ensure that we are genuinely striving for change and equality.
As part of Cultural Diversity Week, we interviewed our consultants to see what they thought about Cultural Diversity within the recruitment sector. Most have experience prior to Planned Resources in other recruitment firms so have an idea of the broader industry. The Caucasian consultants made comments on there being a strong element of diversity in recruitment, while consultants from other cultural backgrounds identified that although there was some improvement, there remained a lack of diversity within the sector, especially in senior management positions. Basically, where a Caucasian person sees their colleague from a different culture doing well in a sector because of their talent, that colleague sees the multitude of white faces around them as an indication of how far there is to go.
Everybody has biases against people who do not look and sound like them. It’s uncomfortable for us to admit as everybody likes to see themselves as a “good person”, but I’d encourage anyone who feels that they don’t have bias to take the following test and see if they maintain the same opinion after the test https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/australia/selectatest.jsp
The Harvard test isn’t asking you to contemplate the pros and cons of Pauline Hanson’s Fish & Chip’s Political ideals which most people disregard as illogical and morally wrong. What the test does do is get you to make snap micro-decisions, determinations that are made in the margins – but its these decisions, made by “good people” that will keep things unequal. For example, do our unconscious biases allow us to form rapport with people who look and talk like us quickly? – probably. Are people likely to put a spelling mistake from a non-English sounding name down to a lack of communication skills compared to the same mistake from John Smith? – potentially. These marginal decisions are easily rectified by taking an extra couple of seconds to challenge your opinion, especially once you are aware of your potential bias.
To a point, these biases reflect the stereotypes that society has embedded in us. For example, name me a black actor in a lead superhero movie before Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther, and if you succeed in that now try and name me an Asian actor, or an Indian lead actor in a similar genre. Yet watch any movie in the ’80s or ’90s and spot the high proportion of non-white bad guys!
This societal programming does not make you a bad person, but it can cloud your judgment and lead to bad decisions. For example, recent medical studies identified that compared to white people, black people in ER’s received 40% less pain medication (Hispanic people 25% less) https://www.physiciansweekly.com/nonwhite-patients-get-less/ Few people would say that the doctors treating the patients were “bad people” or making deliberately hurtful choices. However, doctors that did not make themselves aware of the study of their biases could be called ignorant, and those that were aware of their biases and chose to continue in their original fashion could be called bad.
Like the doctor who reads the study and adjusts their practices (although in a far less important scenario), since taking the tests over 12 months ago, I have tried to be more aware of decisions I make. For instance, as a company, our customer service questionnaires have specific question that a person can choose to answer about their heritage so we can track and compare the experience of non-Caucasian heritage. We have improved our onboarding documentation to highlight diversity, our internal culture is diverse and accepting but monitored by regular external consultants and I’d like to think that I’m taking that extra second to question why I’ve not shortlisted someone. It is important though to maintain vigilance and continually challenge your assumptions.
Finally, as a white male, I thought twice about writing this, after all, I genuinely have no experience of being discriminated against because of my heritage. In the end, though I decided that it was more important for me, especially as a business owner to own my flaws, admit I am not perfect and not bury my head in the sand in the hope that more people will make a conscious choice to challenge their biases.
Russell Locke – Director
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