Many employers consciously or unconsciously bring stereotypes of women and minorities to the selection process, especially the interviewing table. Although this is unfair and may negatively affect the chances of women and minorities, it is a fact that must be realized. These stereotypes come from ignorance and usually aren't intended to be harmful. Recognizing that these stereotypes exist means that women and minorities need to be present themselves as being as different from the stereotypes as possible.
It is easy to blame others when we don't get the job, especially when it appears to be due to the employer's unfair biases or beliefs. Even when this is the case, it is important to evaluate yourself as well. Is it possible that you went into the interview with the assumption that you would not be hired? Did you fall into the trap of confirming the employer's stereotype?
To be determined if you are the victim of discrimination as it is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my race, gender, religious affiliation, national origin, age, sexual orientation or physical handicap entitle me to protection under the laws of the EEOC?
- Am I being treated differently from other applicants of similar experience, education and skills?
- Is the treatment different because of my race, gender, etc.?
If you can answer yes to all of these questions, you may have a legitimate complaint that may qualify for the EEOC action. You, however, need to decide whether you wish to file it.
In a complaint to the EEOC, the burden of proof rests with you. Your state Department of Labor can advise and assist you. Remember that businesses with a small number of employees are often exempt from states' civil rights laws.
Minority and women job seekers can use their minority status as a plus in their job search. Often, companies are attempting to establish a diversity and seek minority applicants. Check with your local employment service and EEOC office to get a list of these companies.
The job search process, especially the interview, is not the time to make political or ethnic statements. Each company has a culture that reflects the values of the company and the people who work there. Employers are no different than you are. They seek people with whom they are comfortable, who demonstrate similar ideas and values. You will be evaluated against those criteria. If making a statement is important to you, then slowly introduce those values and statements into the work culture after you get hired. Remember that the atmosphere of the company is made up of many people with various views and values, not all of which wil agree with your views and values.
As in any job search, networking is the best way to develop job leads. Use your contacts to get your foot in the door at companies. You have a better chance of being hired if you come with a personal recommendation.
Be sure to include non-minorities in your job search network. Look up former classmates or co-workers or join community activities with a large number of non-minority participants. Limiting yourself to minority networking will restrict your opportunities.
Plan ahead. Minorities are often used to a lack of opportunities and, as a result, take the first thing that comes along. Doing that can significantly change the course of your career.
It is illegal for employers to ask:
- your nationality
- your ancestry
- your native language
- where you were born
- your sexual preference
- skin, eye, or hair color
- for a photo on an application
It is legal for employers to ask:
- if you are able to work legally in the United States.
- if you want to be identitifed as a minority for affirmative-action purposes.
I hope that this article has explained some information on the workforce for women and minorities.