We’ve all seen it: that sweet statement at the end of every job posting that tells everyone not to worry, that the people doing the hiring hold absolutely no bias whatsoever and will totally make every decision without regard to race, sex, national origin, disability status, sexual orientation, etc.
We all know that’s complete and utter BS, right?
Of course, if you’ve been reading along at home, you know that everyone has biases. And you know that the system—at least in corporate America—is propped up by its institutional racism that perpetuates the cycle of white supremacy. So, by doing nothing—by acting “neutral”—the people doing the hiring for these positions are quite likely continuing to hire in ways that maintain the status quo.
It’s law school time! There’s a concept in employment law called “disparate impact.” The gist is that an employer can impose a policy or qualification of employment that is entirely neutral in its intent, but if that policy has a disproportionate impact on a group of people in a protected class (race, sex, etc.), the employer is liable for discrimination unless the employer can show an actual job-related need for that policy or qualification. Again, the employer doesn’t have to intend to discriminate, but just by virtue of the impact of the action, can be found liable for employment discrimination.
An example of this is a requirement like “All applicants for positions at our organization must possess a bachelor’s degree.” Sure, some jobs might actually require formal education in the field, but a requirement of a certain level of education—without being open to experience or other factors instead—will usually have the impact of attracting more white applicants than applicants who are people of color. Before you include a degree requirement in your job posting, please make sure it is truly necessary to do the job.
So. What if YOU want to make sure that your organization’s EEO statement actually means something? First, do the internal work to make sure that everyone involved in hiring understands how to hire with racial equity in mind. That means reviewing your job descriptions, training your managers, and revising the recruitment process—at a minimum. And please make sure your organization is one that makes it possible for POC to be fully included—that inclusion piece is a critical first step.
Second, make your EEO statement awesome. Yes, you have to include the basics—but why stop there? If you want POC, women, LGBTQIA+ people to believe that you actually WANT them to show up, consider including working with or modifying some of these for use in your job postings:
Qualifications: Lived experience developing relationships in or with communities of color.
Qualifications: Experience with racial equity in the workplace; experience with contributing to efforts to dismantle structural racism at work.
Successful candidates will commit to an equitable and inclusive workplace, including but not limited to: racial equity, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, use of gender inclusive language, and cultural sensitivity.
Our definition of "women" includes people of all genders who identify as women or femme all or some of the time.
Our organization acknowledges that not all women experience the same barriers to success in the workplace, and we are committed to supporting the advancement of women of color in the workplace.
That’s a good start. Remember, if you say it, you and your organization have to mean it. You can’t authentically strive for the diversity piece of DE&I work without getting your inclusion house in order first.