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Employment and diversity

When being different is seen as a problem and not something to learn new things from, we all lose


It's not a secret for anyone that there's a staffing problem in our area. Everywhere you go, there's a "help wanted" sign, especially in the Service Industry- restaurants, hotels, bars. Some have had to close their doors recently, frustrated with the lack of qualified candidates and the turn overs. Yet I hear the same complaint over and over from people, that there's no jobs for them. Why are these people, from both sides, so eager to employ and be employed not communicating with each other? why is there so little interest from both sides to respond to each others' needs, I sometimes wonder. Obviously, the issue is a lot more complicated than just a lack of desire to apply to jobs, or wanting to stay home and receive help instead of being active members of the workforce, something I've heard people say, a fallacy perpetuated by the myth that the poor, namely BIPOC people, would rather have things given to them. That somehow, being different to the majority makes us more prone to laziness and apathy. That we've not worked in our behalf to get ourselves in a better situation. Not one of these is true, at least in my experience the majority of people want to work and be productive, they want to give a better life to their children and prosper. They just have a harder time getting started, for many reasons.


Problems BIPOC people face in our area, that prevent them from getting employed- or staying employed

When a person emigrates to a different area, even in their own country, there's a lot of things they need to adapt to. They have to learn how to navigate that new area, make new friends, learn the lingo, get used to the climate. Imagine moving to a place with people that don't speak your language, or with a complete different culture, where you are seen as different- and the list of things you need to adapt to, to be able to successfully live the new life you just got, grows.

Most of the time, when we ask people what prevents them from being employed, they say reliable transportation or lack of childcare. Both are expensive, and without a vehicle things get very complicated. Some new people don't know how to drive, and buses take many hours to get them places. In some cases, having a license is required to do the job. Single parents are especially affected by this lack of resources, effectively keeping them below the poverty line.

Sometimes the issue of not knowing enough of the language, or how to use computers to be able to fill applications online effectively also keeps good workers from getting hired. They speak enough of the language to talk and be understood, but their reading comprehension might not be at the same level. Or they might not have access to a computer or internet, or have a smart phone. And most, if not all companies hiring, require the application be submitted online.

There's also the problem of having people dismiss you, not hiring you or not following up with you, based on your name or the way you dress, or your religion being different, due to biases they might be or might not be aware of. It is illegal to discriminate based on these reasons, yet BIPOC people see it over and over- qualified candidates get ignored by companies because they don't see beyond a name. An employer might even be weary of hiring someone from a certain minority group because of misinformation and/or stereotyping of the whole group, so they stick with what they know and are comfortable with, missing out on potential hard working, loyal employees in the process.

There's also the problem of the lack of understanding of the culture from both sides. We, as Americans, tend to think that everyone knows what they are supposed to do when they are hired. That job ethics, performance requirements and appropriate behaviors are intrinsically understood by everyone, and common sense. But that's not always the case, and people here are sometimes very surprised to learn that the rest of the world doesn't follow the same guidelines, and that workers don't understand why their supervisor is so upset for something they consider a minor infraction. Sometimes the workers get fired, and don't understand what happened, so they get a new job and repeat the behavior- and get fired again. The employer doesn't understand why the workers do what they do, so they avoid hiring people from that particular group in the future, and the cycle continues.

It all boils down to a lack of education an understanding, from both sides.


We need to work on these problems, if we are ever to bridge that lack of understanding. We need to educate both sides

It is important for employers to understand where their employees are coming from, and their culture, in order to understand some of their behaviors. It is also important for the employees to receive orientation and training of what they are expected to do in their jobs, including things such as being on time, and socializing at work- things that are sometimes overlooked and seen as obvious. Cultures in different parts of the world seem to have a different idea of what is supposed to happen at work, and how to relate to people in positions of power, for example. In some cultures, it is disrespectful to address your boss directly or look at them in the eyes, just to name a couple things. As a person that was raised in a more "Americanized" way of seeing the world, I was taught to be assertive and ask for what I need, and bring my concerns to my supervisor, and talk to them looking at them as an equal, albeit respectfully. For a person like me, it is natural to behave like that. Without knowing these cultural differences, I'd probably read a worker's behavior of avoiding my gaze, and not talking to me, as a sign of them trying to hide something, or mistrust on their part towards me, when in reality it might just be that this is what they understand they are supposed to do, because they respect you and see you as an authority figure. Time management is also a topic that cultures see differently. In my culture, lateness is not only normal, but expected. If you are told to be there at six- you'd be surprised to find out that everyone else start showing up at seven, or even eight, with no apology. People know this, so they purposely provide an earlier time than the real time, because they know people will always show up later. Many of my American and Canadian friends have had people invite them to dinner at their houses, and true to their culture- have arrived at the time they were told to, and found the host still getting ready. They were both baffled, and they both considered the other one rude. Also, if they said dinner is at seven- dinner might be served at ten, or even later, as they see socializing as a more important task than eating, and they are more relaxed about how long a person should stay at another person's home. I remember how confused I was when I realized people had ending times for parties here. In my culture, you know when the meeting starts, but it would be considered rude to tell your guests to go home because it's bed time or the party is over. Time does not mean the same to everyone.

And these are just a few examples of the importance of understanding each other's cultures, because things might seem obvious to us when they are not so to others. People get fired for these cultural differences all the time, and neither side understands why the other keeps doing what they do. We need to educate both sides in these differences, to be able to improve the relationship between employers and employees. Diversity education should be the norm, not the exception.

Maybe when we all learn from each other, and find a middle ground that benefits both the employer and the people they want to hire, the staffing problem would be reduced and even eliminated, and the community would be better for it.

We certainly have a long difficult road ahead, but not an impossible one. Education and understanding are key. Let's work on improving that, and the rest will hopefully follow.