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Not Your Type? A Look At Hiring Bias and Stereotypes in the Caribbean Workplace

Discrimination does not only apply to the justice system, but it can also be found in the boardroom, frontline operations and in your own office.

In the Caribbean, this type of discrimination can be inconspicuous yet customers and employees can become aware of it over time. The harsh reality is that hiring bias, a type of discrimination in the region has been normalised and this is particularly due to the history of slavery and colonialism. Additionally, we base our preferences on what we see in ourselves or at least what we would desire for ourselves.

It is rooted in our personal experiences based on political, educational, religious and social hierarchies within society.

From the Plantation to the Workplace: Racial Stereotypes

The Caribbean past is a dark one where slavery and other forms of oppression flourished. Like the United States of America and the Diaspora, this toxic and at time deadly environment was fueled by misguided ideals of race such as colorism. This was often seen on the hundreds of plantations in the region.

Colorism is known as ”prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group”. Today, it is still prevalent in the economics and social make-up of each island territory.

In the past, it determined the type of treatment an enslaved person got, where they lived and their social status. During these times, black people were viewed as egregious, uneducated and uncivilized and there was and still is a fascination about the lightness of the skin and it being associated (erroneously) to European ideals of beauty and wealth. Four centuries ago, the dark skinned man and woman worked in the fields and the light-skinned woman and man worked in the “main house” with the white slave owner. The latter was treated better, dressed similarly to their owner and through illegitimate connections, inherited property and other possessions.

Although most people of color live in a free society, the mental trauma of the past continues to disrupt work relationships to a point where people are seeking legal action. There are work situations where dark-skinned employees may face discrimination from light-skinned management and vice versa. This might manifest itself in the form of passive aggressive behavior: hostility, intentional mistakes and disguised compliments. In many cases, this type of discrimination by race and skin tone can be identified at the hiring stage through the observation of attitudes of the hiring managers towards specific candidates.

Discrimination by Gender

The world has been built on patriarchial beliefs and philosophies with many of these extracted from religion. Today, women entering the workforce are facing challenges from the first interview. These include questions about their parental responsibilities, their emotional being or temperament, their capabilities to lead and be assertive. Even before the interview, women are not considered for the hiring process by 30 per cent according to an American report.

Also, women are less likely to enter certain industries such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Statistics show that only 35 per cent of STEM students globally pursuing higher education are women.

In the Caribbean, despite having higher numbers by population in specific territories, women are more likely to be unemployed and underemployed. National economic conditions and job segregation are the roots of the problem with men benefiting from any increase in economic activity in the region.

Many barriers have been broken and working-class families, minorities and women have reached a higher level of education and professional success. But most people within a specific gender and social class are shackled from upward mobility and barred from harmony within the workplace. This is due to outdated racial and gender philosophies and social stereotypes.

Are You Seeing Through A Biased Lens?

On June 10 during a LinkedIn Live, host, Pauline Joseph chatted with yoga businessman and Trinidadian Troy Hadeed. The topic was “A Discussion about White Privilege in Trinidad and Tobago” and Hadeed gave his personal struggles with race and identity growing up in the Caribbean. In the interview, he made reference to his business which mostly caters to women. He admitted that after speaking to his business associate, it was decided that there is a need for more ”male energy”. He added that they are trying to break that stereotype (female only yoga).

”What I would advise anyone, is to look at their unconscious patterns and start to enquire as to where does it come from and try to break them!” urged Hadeed.

He emphasized that these ideals do not serve anyone other than a person’s comfort.

Many Categories of Hiring Bias

Race and gender are only two ways job candidates can be discriminated against each other as there are 13 different ways it can happen.

The Common categories include

The Halo Effect -Recruiters can focus too much on one positive aspect such as a job candidate’s past school or what sports he or she plays.

The Horn Effect-Recruiters have found out something negatively about the candidate and they are unable to overcome the revelation.

Beauty Bias-It is often perceived that beautiful people are likely to succeed. Recruiters can show their bias by only hiring attractive people or people with specific physical characteristics.

Moving Beyond Your Bias

Companies which are more inclusive, perform better. But managers and employers must make the commitment to change their discriminating ways during the hiring process.

To eliminate hiring bias, businesses must create an awareness of their hiring bias. This will involve the human resources department team who will have to compile data on existing employees. Information on their qualifications, level of education, gender, race, marital status and interests should be reviewed. Is there a pattern of bias in the workplace?

Think About Inclusion and Diversity In the Workplace

It is also important to think about inclusion and diversity when eliminating hiring bias. Hiring managers must avoid discriminating language in job descriptions, promote standardized interviews, validate assessments, give employees sensitivity training on discrimination, make the hiring process a collaborative one and resist relying on one’s intuition.

Follow LinkedIn Local Caribbean blog writer, Krystal Penny Bowen on LinkedIn.

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