False Notions Smear Minority Hiring

By Anita Bruzzese
Gannett News Service

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July 2, 2007

Ken Arroyo Roldan says that there is a dearth of diversity at the senior levels in American companies today, and executive search firms share much of the blame for that fact.

By the way, Roldan works for an executive recruiting company.

"We are the perpetuators," he says. "We control a lot of the search for the new talent brought on board, and if there are not incentives to do it, it doesn't get done."

Specifically, Roldan says that recruiters often ask employers to pay a 40 percent premium to recruit a minority "because they say it's more difficult," a fact that Roldan disputes.

As diversity practice leader with Battalia Winston Amrop Hever Group, Roldan says that assertion is just one of the myths that compounds the problem of minorities in the workplace. Without minorities at the senior levels, he says, minorities fail to get hired in lower tier positions as well.

"The titans of business really don't care about this issue," he says. "They have this "I gave at the gate' mentality. Many executives have been sensitized to death (about minorities) but at the end of the day, are they exposed to others? No. It's a gated community of white males."

He argues that a multipronged approach is needed to bring true diversity to the workplace, including the education of senior leaders and recruitment of diverse talent of workers at all levels of an organization.

"In corporations, the internal recruiters are not risk takers. They go with the tried and true method and they won't buck the system," he says. "They will go with the usual suspects," and forego searching and actively recruiting minority candidates, Roldan says.

"Companies can no longer sustain the argument that "we grow our talent organically,' because that's just an excuse to exclude minorities," he says.

Roldan says that he's trying to educate more recruiters about minority hiring, and how things can be done differently. He says that while discrimination exists, he believes it is more a matter of "ignorance" on the part of recruiters. To that end, he has come up with a list of myths that he's trying to dispel:

Myth 1: Qualified people of color at high levels are not out there. He says too often only a small group of upper level minority candidates are considered, when there are many more available.

Myth 2: It's hard to recruit minority candidates to some areas of the country. Roldan says that if more recruiters promoted what's attractive and appealing about a community to a minority candidate (good schools, beautiful scenery, etc.) then more minority job seekers would be interested in relocating.

Myth 3: Minority candidates are hard to manage and hard to terminate because they could claim discrimination and sue the company. Not true, he says.

Another problem he says, is "that when companies think of minorities, they only want someone like Tiger Woods. The best of the best. They're not willing to consider someone else, like they would with white males," he says.

According to the latest figures from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, while African Americans make up 14.1 percent of the workforce, they only comprise 7.3 percent of the professional ranks in this country. Hispanics, with nearly 12 percent of the workforce, only have 4.4 percent in the professional ranks. Asian Americans, on the other hand, are only 5 percent of the labor force in the U.S., but comprise 9.7 percent of the professional forces.

"There is a lot of work still to be done," Roldan says. "A lot of education in the recruitment marketplace is still required. We cannot revert to tokenism. There are a lot of kids out there who want to make an impact on the world, and we can't shut them out."

Anita Bruzzese is author of "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy," (www.45things.com). Write to her at anita@anitabruzzese.com or c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va. 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.



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