How unconscious bias is killing communities and industries with unemployment

The Government was proud to announce that unemployment during the second quarter of 2016 fell by 4.6% to 1.6million people. Yet a closer look revealed that people of colour were not the ones stepping out of the benefits queue and into jobs. BHM investigates how communities of colour have been overlooked in the national bid for new jobs.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Is often the advice given to those looking for jobs and it’s true; in 2014, up to 70% of job openings were given to employees who had befriended their bosses on social media, or had an existing relationship with someone in the company before they were hired- often regardless of the other candidate’s levels of skill or experience.

It means that for the majority of job openings, particularly for vacancies at managerial levels and above, the winning candidate is often not the best candidate available and for jobs below managerial status, candidates quickly become overqualified and alienated.

“Got Served a drink last night by a heart surgeon!!! #overqualified” -@mattfulls

But hiring friends, and friends of friends does not explain the disparity of who is unemployed. According to a House of Commons Briefing Paper, published in April 2016, 4% of those who identify as ‘White’ are unemployed, whereas 9% of the British Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) workforce has declared unemployment.

This data is hard to quantify once you understand that the highest percentage of graduates come from non-white backgrounds. According to UCAS, African heritage students rank second and Caribbean students rank 8th; both groups graduating at a proportionally larger percentage to their White peers who are ranked last in 9th.

The number of job applicants reflect this disparity too, with BME graduates being up to 15% less likely to find a job according to the Institute for Social and Economic Research, whereas their White peers, regardless of their graduate status, are up to thirty times more likely to be hired in any given role.

Speaking to Rob Tulsiani of Green Park at the Top 100 BAME Leaders in Business 2016 earlier this year, he finds that the reason for this employment disparity is due to the ‘unchallenged attitudes’ and ‘unconscious bias’ many employers apply against BAME applicants. Through his organisation, Green Park, which helps to find and support BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) applicants find jobs around the Executive level, Rob has found that many recruiters often discard applicants before truly analysing their CV.

The reasons for this are vast, but once you step away from the traditional reasons a CV may be discarded; such as an unprofessional email, poor formatting or the use of images- the next biggest reason a CV is refused is because it features a name that is difficult to pronounce or the school they studied in is not well respected or known. The problem with this is, is that these typically feature on applications made by someone with a background that is something other than White, British and Middle-class.

However, Green Park has found that business grow and earn at least 12% more when their board of directors is representative of their workforce and is diverse in the areas of Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation and Gender. It means that this unchallenged attitude of subconsciously choosing only Straight, White, British Men, perpetuates a standard of mediocracy within the company, resulting in slow growth.

But for those on the receiving end of rejection, the impact reverberates into the community.

For low paying jobs which are filled by highly skilled workers, the turnover rate of employees due to job dissatisfaction creates communities with an ‘economic vacuum’. This means that for communities who have a workforce capable for highly paid, highly skilled work yet lack the finances to contribute towards community growth- make easy targets for gentrification as the number of home and small business owners declines.

It also means that another important piece of advice, ‘go to school to get a good job’, is not necessarily true, as Graduates who are not hired within 6 months, find themselves comparatively earning 12%-19% less than their working counterparts – regardless of their qualifications.

Challenging this unconscious bias within the workplace is not a fight that is without merit. UCAS has been trailing ‘name-blind’ applications for over a year now, with former Prime Minister, David Cameron hoping to make it a mandatory feature in in all public and private sector job applications from 2017.

However, until UCAS release their findings on the success of ‘name-blind’ applications and Cameron’s policies are implemented, the responsibility of challenging industry wide discrimination falls on the shoulders of recruiters.