ICYMI – Black job seekers have harder time finding retail and service work than their white counterparts, study suggests | Toronto Star

Interesting study:

Black applicants may have a harder time finding an entry level service or retail job in Toronto than white applicants with a criminal record, a new study has found.

For a city that claims to be multicultural, the results were “shocking,” said Janelle Douthwright, the study’s author, who recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies from the University of Toronto.

Douthwright read a similar study from Milwaukee, Wis., during her undergraduate courses and she was “floored” by the findings.

“I thought there was no way this would be true here in Toronto,” she said.

She pursued her graduate studies to find out.

Douthwright created four fictional female applicants and submitted their resumes for entry level service and retail positions in Toronto over the summer.

She gave two of the applicants Black sounding names — Khadija Nzeogwu and Tameeka Okwabi — and gave one a criminal record. The Black applicants also listed participation in a Black or African student association on their resumes.

She gave the two other applicants white sounding names — Beth Elliot and Katie Foster — and also gave one of them a criminal record. The candidates with criminal records indicated in their cover letters that they had been convicted of summary offences, which are often less serious crimes.

 

Both Black applicants applied to the same 64 jobs and the white applicants applied to another 64 jobs.

Douthwright explained that she didn’t submit all four applications to the same jobs because the applications for the two candidates with criminal records and the two applicants without criminal records were almost identical except for the elements she used to indicate race, so they might have aroused suspicions among the employers if they were all submitted for the same jobs.

Though the resumes were nearly identical — each applicant had a high school education and experience working as a hostess and retail sales associate — the white applicant who didn’t have a criminal record received the most callbacks by far.

 

Of the 64 applications, the white applicant with no criminal record received 20 callbacks, a callback rate of 31.3 per cent. The white applicant with a criminal record received 12 callbacks, a callback rate of 18.8 per cent.

The Black applicant with no criminal record, meanwhile, received seven callbacks, a rate of 10.9 per cent. The Black applicant with a criminal record received just one callback out of 64 applications, a rate of 1.6 per cent.

Lorne Foster, a professor in the Department of Equity Studies at York University said Douthwright’s study bolsters the thesis that “the workplace is discriminatory on a covert level.”

“We have a number of acts that protect us against discrimination and many people think that because of that strong infrastructure discrimination is gone,” he said.

That’s not the case. “Implicit” or unconscious bias is a persistent issue.

“All of these implicit biases are automatic, they’re ambivalent, they’re ambiguous, and they’re much more dangerous than the old-fashioned prejudices and discrimination that used to exist because they go undetected but they have an equally destructive impact on people’s lives,” Foster said.

“It’s an invisible and tasteless poison and it’s difficult to eliminate.”

Individual employers, he said, should take a proactive approach to ensure their hiring practices are inclusive or at least adhering to the human rights code by testing and challenging their processes to uncover any hidden prejudices.

He pointed to the Windsor Police Service, who shifted their hiring practices when they discovered their existing process was excluding women, as an example.

They were one of the first services to do a demographic scan of who works for them, said Foster, who worked on a human rights review of the service.

Through that process they realized there was a “dearth” of female officers. They realized that the original process, which involved a number of physical tests “where there was all this male testosterone flying around,” was inhibiting women from attending the session.

In response they organized a series of targeted recruitment sessions and were able to hire five new women at the end of that process, Foster said.

“We all need to be vigilant about our thoughts about other people, our hidden biases and images of them,” he said.

via Black job seekers have harder time finding retail and service work than their white counterparts, study suggests | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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