Are You as ‘Qualified’ as You Think?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:

This is in response to your answer to the question “Do Good Companies Discriminate in Job Hiring?”

 

I thought your answer avoided the question and reinforced many of the inequalities that currently exist even at “good companies.” Your response, once again, put the responsibility solely on the shoulders of the employee (the victim) to overcome whatever stereotypes or biases that may exist. If the hiring managers at the company truly prefer to place non-minority candidates first, regardless of education, experience, appearance, etc., then to advise the questioner to just “be positive, work harder, look better and spell-check” does not address the fact that minority candidates must be smarter, better educated, better dressed, more positive and more optimistic than their peers just to have a fair shot at promotion and retention. This clearly defines racial bias and discrimination even at this so-called “good company.” Your comment that the questioner is better off at this “good company” also reinforces that, for most diverse candidate, the questioner’s experience is their reality.


So given all of this, what is your advice for employees who have done everything you suggest and still feel that they are not being fairly treated or given a fair shot at promotion or retention? What then? I appreciate your e-mail; however, where I failed was in being too nice.

 

Answer:

The original question contained TWO misspelled words. Yours contained one.If someone sends me a cover letter with TWO misspelled words, I’m not responding. Misspelled words in any situation are sloppy. They indicate a lack of care and inattention to detail. If someone is misspelling words in a cover letter, I’m sure they’ll be even less attentive once they’re on the job. Now I understand that nobody is perfect and accidents sometimes happen, but spell check is FREE.

 

Now it’s possible that nobody’s told that to the person who posed the original question, thus my advice.

 

This is not to deny the struggle.” I completely concur with you that the typical non-white, male, straight person with no ADA-defined disabilities has to be superior to his counterpart at almost every company. However, not all companies are equal.

 

I think companies on our DiversityInc Top 50 list are significantly better than the average company–the numbers bear witness. People who find themselves frustrated at their career progress stand a far better chance at receiving a fair opportunity at a DiversityInc Top 50 company. However, the more progressive a company is, the more likely it is to understand just how far the company needs to go to get to the place where all people have an equal opportunity to achieve the level to which their intellect, education and work have entitled them. In my opinion, even at Top 50 companies, most of the executives I meet who are not white, straight men with no disabilities are not at the level they should be.

 

It is very difficult for me to give blanket advice for people who feel they are being discriminated against. I recently received an e-mail from a person who criticized my advice to change jobs. That person felt the discriminated person should be a change agent. The problem is that the person who was giving this advice was a tenured professor at a university. It’s preposterous to compare a tenured position with the average person. Change agents in oppressive environments often become victims.

 

However, there are legal remedies available. One should avail themselves of competent legal counsel when necessary.

 

I feel the next logical step is to change jobs. If you haven’t looked for a job in a few years, you might be pleasantly surprised at the effort progressive companies have made to provide an accountable and nurturing environment. Check out our career center. The heartbreaking, terrible truth is that sometimes there is no good advice. There are many people who are being oppressed but are in a situation where personal factors (eldercare, spouse, geographic limitations) prevent them from mounting an internal change effort, finding a legal remedy or just finding another job. I suggest that the only sanity-preserving course of action is to be the maximum change agent your constitution can handle. Seek allies–and be open to the fact that your best allies may not look like you.

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