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Is There Still Racism in IT Hiring Practices? 1085

Posted by Cliff
from the skin-color-shouldn't-matter dept.
noahz asks: "Today [now three days ago] in the United States marks Martin Luther King Day, remembering the birthday - and legacy - of the great civil rights leader. It's been over 40 years since his march on Washington, back when IT was still in its infancy and was exclusively a white, male field. But, how much progress has been made in the IT world? I recently had a recruiter tell me that I would have no problem finding a job in the current economy - not because I am enthusastic, well-educated and have good experience - but because I am caucasian - 'white'. This particular recruiter insisted that his years experience has led him to this conclusion - but I wonder: what the collective experience of the Slashdot readership has found?"
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Is There Still Racism in IT Hiring Practices?

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  • by Real World Stuff (561780) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (ffuts_dlrow_laer)> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:17PM (#14514929) Journal
    Racism is still prevalent. It is just a matter of degree as to how blatant.
    • It is a long thought out process as to whether I wear my Yarmulke in particular situations .(it's not that I need to wear it , but I like to , I am proud of who I am)
      Without it , I am your average Caucasian , as soon as I put the hat on I become recognisable as Jewish .
      Its a tough choice , do I hide who I am , even though it goes against my nature , just so I can smooth things out and avoid grief .
      Or do I wear it and face the possibility of losing a contract because someone thinks I am a "Yid " or a "kike"
      • Advantage (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Catskul (323619)
        In certain situations it can be an extreme advantage to express your Jewishness. It can be a ticket to a sold out show so to speak. Prejudice goes both ways.
      • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:05AM (#14516462)
        Huh. Must be nice to be able to put your cultural identity in your pocket and fit in with the dominant culture once in a while. Some of us can't take off our skin colour. Having said that, if an employer doesn't want you because you're not white, it's not an employer worth working for. Be proud of your heritage!
        • Huh. Must be nice to be able to put your cultural identity in your pocket and fit in with the dominant culture once in a while. Some of us can't take off our skin colour. Having said that, if an employer doesn't want you because you're not white, it's not an employer worth working for. Be proud of your heritage!

          "Be proud of your heritage!" Why? Your heritage is this: No matter the color of your skin, shape of your nose, curliness of your hair, you and every other person on the planet have a common fe

      • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @03:40AM (#14517129) Journal
        It is a long thought out process as to whether I wear my Yarmulke in particular situations .(it's not that I need to wear it , but I like to , I am proud of who I am) Without it , I am your average Caucasian , as soon as I put the hat on I become recognisable as Jewish .
        Are you jewish because you were born jewish, or is it because your parents turned you into a jew?

        (There can be no race when it's all in the head).

    • Why does it seem people only care about racism around MLK day?
  • Racism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by east coast (590680) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:18PM (#14514936)
    I think there is a bit or racism brought on by the off-shoring of IT jobs but overall I don't think it's as bad as it is in many other sectors with real earning potential. It's probably more xenophobic than anything.
    • by kale77in (703316) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:34PM (#14515886) Homepage
      We're mostly caucasian and asian where I work. (Aust. Gov't. Dept.)

      There's no conscious policy, but selection is based on merit, and in western society, inequal opportunity means that those with social advantages (money, role models in family and peers, contacts, home location, etc) are able to better maximise the value they offer to employers.

      So racism is the wrong way to be trying to explain this, in most cases. Social inequality is the real issue; I don't feel there's been a lot of progress in that area.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:18PM (#14514939)
    With most of work being offshored, I can only guess that most of our company's IT guys are either Chinese or Indian - but who knows; the guys in Bejing and Bangladesh might be white or black or american indians.


    Seem to me IT, thanks to virual offices and networking is probably the most race-blind industry in existance.

  • I would have to say that there is a little, but it is only in the name of "equal opportunity" and against caucasians. I have lost four jobs in the past to less (only slightly though) qualified individuals because they were minorities and the company had to meet the EOE minimum requirements... I am sure there is some stigma too, but anymore I doubt it.
    • Your claim is that the Equal Opportunity Act requires employers to hire less qualified workers if they are minorities, and that this explains why you weren't hired.

      These claims are false. Please check for yourself [eeoc.gov].
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:33PM (#14515070)
        Maybe the original poster jumped to conclusions. Maybe he was just a crappy worker. But, I can point out countless examples in my career where managers treat their minority employees differently because of fear of lawsuits or EEOC sanctions. Basically, when it comes to these cases, they are heavily weighted for the person lodging the claim and the company has to "prove" that there was no discrimination.

        Many companies are scared shitless that they will be targeted under civil rights laws because they appeared to (but actually dont, they just hire the most qualified people who happen to be asian or white for the most part) discriminate against blacks or if they fire a black worker for doing poorly.

        Our civil rights laws have brought alot of needed progress to society but they are a double-edged sword, in their current (and largely unchanged form). There is definitely a subculture of minorities out there who like to use their minority status as a crutch and leveraging tool in the workplace.
        • by sdedeo (683762) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:47PM (#14515162) Homepage Journal
          Many companies are scared shitless that they will be targeted under civil rights laws because they appeared to (but actually dont, they just hire the most qualified people who happen to be asian or white for the most part) discriminate against blacks or if they fire a black worker for doing poorly.

          Now would be a good time to provide newspaper accounts of such things. Yes, I'm sure if this happened, many would be unreported. But surely there is one good man or woman out there who will speak up with a specific example?

          While you're digging that up (no, angry bloggers don't count) perhaps you'd like to read the socialist-communist-worker's party's political organ, Businessweek [businessweek.com], whose 2001 article claimed "in an increasingly multicultural U.S., harassment of minorities is on the rise".

          There is definitely a subculture of minorities out there who like to use their minority status as a crutch and leveraging tool in the workplace.

          Perhaps. Whenever there is a law, even a just law like EOA, there will be people who will try to use it for their personal gain. What is without doubt it that there is a subculture of white people who have gained and retain a significant advantage in the workplace on account of their race.
          • Ok. Here's one [insidehighered.com]. I don't know too much about insidehighered.com, but I doubt it's a front for the aryan brotherhood.

            In summary (because this is /., so RTFA is right out. ;->), white female candidate was one of the finalists for a job. Employer's EOO ADDED a male african-american candidate to the finalist pool. White female came in second from the top[1], while african-american came in second from the bottom. University gave the job to the african-american "candidate". Here's a link [pdf, you've been warne [uscourts.gov]
        • MOD parent up!i (Score:3, Insightful)

          by walterbyrd (182728)

          I have worked in IT over 25 years. I have seen this. It does happen.
        • There is definitely a subculture of minorities out there who like to use their minority status as a crutch and leveraging tool in the workplace.

          And I know a lot more (even if you normalize for population size) whites who like to use their privilege to not have to be afraid of the police, to not get followed around in stores, to get into college because of Daddy's large gift or legacy status, so on and so forth.

          Just want to point out the full story...

      • by jcr (53032) <{moc.cam} {ta} {rcj}> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:50PM (#14515183) Journal
        These claims are false.

        They may or may not be, but citing a government publication stating how the act is intended to work, doesn't make a definitive case.

        -jcr
  • Perhaps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:19PM (#14514946)
    I was hired by a dot-com at a job fair even though I had no experience. My boss later told me, he hired me because I was asian and wore glasses. So I suppose there are definitely stereotypes or racism.
  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:20PM (#14514953)
    We have a shop full of indians(big tech firm), and my boss pulled me to the side just today and asked me to make sure that I hired a white or a black guy for the spot that just opened up.

    I plan to do just that.

    So, there's racism in 2006 for you. Blacks and whites together, fighting for our jobs. BTW, we're white.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZedmanAuk (52694) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:36PM (#14515486)
      Hmm, so never mind those of Indian descent who happened to be raised in the US and are just as American as anyone else here, like me. You'd rather hire a Caucasian directly from Sweden or African directly from South Africa instead? Is this supposed to be pro-American?

      And you're saying those of East Asian descent don't need jobs?

      Racism is inherently inefficient because you end up with not the best person for the job, so the company suffers. Competitors who aren't racist will outperform and therefore the racist company will suffer. Those who are racist will complain that non-racist (i.e. "diverse" or "multi-cultural", although those are loaded words) companies get plum deals (from govt. or whoever) because they hire minorities and are getting some sort of special treatment. The reality is that non-racist companies outperform those companies which are not, and therefore deserve the deals.
      • by jpostel (114922)
        "best person for the job" is a tough nut to crack. I'll give an example that is not uncommon in the US.

        The job might require the person to speak on the phone a lot and therefore have a native command of the language. There goes all the recently imported talent. Another requirement might be that they live within a certain distance of the office for emergency on-call situations. If the demographics of the technically qualified local talent pool are 90% white, then what? Would the person then be racist for no
    • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bataras (169548)
      So a large company. And a manager of a manager is saying hire a certain color. That's pretty sad.
  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:21PM (#14514966) Homepage Journal
    It seems a person's accent has a bigger impact. People with american (midwest, southern, whatever), Brittish, Irish, Kiwi or Aussie accent seem to have an easier time communicating with recruiters and interviewers than someone with a Chinese, Indian, or even Russian accent.

    There is probably a lot more age discrimination in IT than race discrimination. Now for upper management there is a huge racial imbalance. A company might have a 50% minory staff, but often less than 10% minority management.
    • by clockwise_music (594832) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:30PM (#14515046) Homepage Journal
      Age is a bigger issue.

      I hear it all the time "We want someone young, energetic" - because old people are not worth the effort.

      Accent can be a problem, but I don't think that this is in any way racist. If you can't understand the person because of their accent, it's going to be tough working with them. It doesn't matter what country they come from.
      • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:57PM (#14515237) Homepage
        Age is a bigger issue.

        Yep.

        My father was a programmer. He turned 55 in 2000; in the lead-up to Y2K he did pretty well, having skills with older systems, but after that...nothing. He was out of work for years before moving on to a different field (real estate [markswiss.net].)

        That made me look around the office. How many developers over 40 were there? Few. Over 50? One.

        I decided to go back to school and get a job skill [earthtouchshiatsu.com] that can't be outsourced and (if I stay healthy) I can keep going into my 60s or later. (I'm still doing software part-time.)

        • In my experience, the closest a Software Company or a Company's IT department is to the "Sweatshop Model of Software Development" the younger the people working there as developers.

          You see, it's much more easy to convince a 20 year old with little industry experience to work 60h weeks than it is to convince a 30 year old with plenty of industry experience (and maybe a wife and kids at home).

          A great deal of the management practices in this industry turns around suckering the naive into giving their free time
      • by aliens (90441) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:44PM (#14515555) Homepage Journal
        This is what scares the crap out of me. Look at any programmers who are now 50+, most of them have been forced to move on. And while I'd say it is very apparent in the programming field I feel like it happens to everyone across the board.

        Fact is younger people can be forced to work longer and harder because they don't have a family, aren't experiencing hyper-tension, can be paid less, etc.

        The sad fact is we'll be deemed worthless by the time we're 40 even if you feel invincible now.

        I've already seriously started looking at going back to school like another poster suggested for a job that is just as fun but where I will never be considered too old to perform.
    • I know a Russian lady that speaks English very well. She has a "thick" Russian accent though. She called Symantec support one day and an Indian gentleman with a "thick" Indian accent was trying to give her support. She quickly told him that since neither of them spoke English natively and both had an accent, she requested to speak with an American or a Russian that she could understand. I laughed at this and said I never would have imagined her doing that. She said, "Why waste your time dealing with so
    • Indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:52PM (#14515196) Homepage
      Age tends to be an issue because to older you get, the less bullshit you are inclined to put up with from employers for shit wages. Human Resources knows this, and so they go for the young and hungery employee who doesn't have many obligations beyond party money.
    • Not just accent (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SSpade (549608)

      Ability to communicate clearly with the rest of the team is vital in pretty much any IT job above the level of scutwork. In the US that (usually) means that you must be able to speak, and write, in clear, easy to understand English.

      If you can't communicate clearly with the interviewer and recruiter, then you won't be able to communicate clearly with the rest of your team. That significantly decreases your value as a hire.

  • by po8 (187055) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:23PM (#14514981)

    ...that holding an MLK Day story for 3 days before posting it is just weird.

    The editors should have saved it until April 1, so that the sense of cognitive dissonance I got from viewing it was well-deserved.

  • by dptalia (804960) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:28PM (#14515037) Homepage Journal
    And it wasn't because I'm female, which is what would be most people's first guess, but because I am not Jewish and was white. At one company I worked for all the good programming jobs went to the Jews (honestly! And 80% of them were Russian), all the good EE jobs went to the Vietnamese, and the scut jobs - maintenance and gatekeeping and the like - went to the white Christians. I stayed for four years because I was making so much money I was willing to put up with it, but in the end our entire division was closed.
  • Where I work... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by edremy (36408) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:30PM (#14515045) Journal
    12 people in our department. (Small woman's college)

    CIO: White female
    Academic tech: white male (me)
    Media Services: black male
    Network manager: white male
    Server manager: black male
    Programmers: two white males, one white female
    Staff support: white female
    Hardware: white female
    Help Desk: one white female, one black male

    Total: 9 white, 3 black, 7 men, 5 women.

    Seems pretty balanced to me given the local population. Then again, we tend to hire people with little experience and promote from within. (CIO started as a secretary years ago, server manager began as a help desk grunt, etc.)

  • This is idiotic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ellem (147712) * <ellem52@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:30PM (#14515047) Homepage Journal
    There are so few industries like IT where pure chops are the only thing that matters. I don't care if you're a friggin mold... if you can run a server you're hired. There's more than enough "backroom" positions where you can hide bad personalities etc.

    Christ! My department is like the freakin UN. I have a Brit, 2 black women, a kid of some undefined ethnicity and Swedish/Puerto Rican!

    *I'm the white guy!*
  • in academia (Score:3, Informative)

    by sdedeo (683762) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:32PM (#14515061) Homepage Journal
    I would say racism in hiring persists -- subtly -- in academia. My hopeful prediction is that it will disappear in the next ten to twenty years. It is not longer blatant; more a question of the accumulation of subtle factors over the years. (Also, IMO, sexism is a problem as well, and much more obvious -- some think racism is anathama, but have no problem in discriminating against women.)

    Racism is much more blatant at the undergraduate and graduate levels of education (i.e., before you go on the academic job market.) In many cases, it is the result of underprepared minority students not being given the attention and training they need to get up to speed after admissions offices have "taken a chance" on students they think are bright but poorly prepared.

    Our universities are some of the most successful institutions in the country; it is natural that politicians would like to shift the burden of solving racism at much earlier levels (elementary, grade and high-school education) to the universities.
  • Back in 1990 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelinas@gmail. c o m> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:32PM (#14515066) Journal
    I worked with a sysadmin who happened to be African American (well, back then he was "black"). Anyway, the guy was damn smart, had a Masters, and was well respected by the user community. I've worked with and for other's of a variety of ethnicities and generally come to the conclusion that if they knew their stuff they gained respect. Now I can't speak to racism in corporate America - I'm white as a sheet - but I've seen competence and excellence overcome staff level prejudice.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      I worked with a sysadmin who happened to be African American (well, back then he was "black")

      He isn't black anymore!? i didn't know Jacko worked as a sysadmin.
  • however, i would call IT an avenue to fight racism. programming, or any technically involved task, encourages meritocracy: either you can do the complicated task, or you can't. in other words, the more complicated the job, the less incentive there is for ignoring innate abilities. in other fields, where the work required is more rote and simple, other, more fickle reasons can come into play in choosing an employee, reasons like racism

    it would be, for example, a lot easier to get away with hiring only white secretaries rather than only white IT workers. simply because a lot of people can do a secretary's job, so your selection criteria can be more and more shallow. but your business will suffer to your more enlightened competitors if you pass up on real talent in a limited pool for a shallow reason. therefore, the job market in highly technical fields takes care of racism all by itself. IT simply can't afford to be racist. to ignore a technically astute individual for the whim of skin color is too heavy a price for an employer to pay

    and of course, this issue is framed in an era when IT departments everywhere are farming all of their work out to india! where's rudyard kipling to laugh at when you need him? "white man's burden?" [wikipedia.org] pffft. well that's deliciously ironic dear mr. kipling: a century after you penned those patronizing condescending words suggesting how nonwhite peoples were naturally the "inferior" wards of "superior" europeans, your "superior" europeans are rapidly becoming the wards of nonwhite peoples. the entire information infrastructure of the western world is rapidly becoming the "brown man's burden"

    so to speak of racism in IT is rather obtuse. IT is definitely one of the more egalitarian work fields in the worlds in terms of proportionate racial representation
  • IT racism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashdotnickname (882178) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:43PM (#14515130)
    As a black man myself, my own experiences in the IT field have been rather positive. In fact, I would rank my work environments as some of the most "incident free" places I've experienced. I attribute this partly to the nature of the field itself, as it favors intelligent open-minded people. We're also mostly from newer generations and, therefore, aren't as engrained in the racist attitudes of the past.
  • You NASCAR people make me sick, and I'll use every trick in the book to make sure you don't get promoted or even hired.
  • Forced Diversity. (Score:3, Informative)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:48PM (#14515172)
    At one point in my career I was a team leader for an IT group, both my manager (a woman) and I interviewed a female candidate and both I (for technical reasons) and my mgr (for personality reasons) didn't think that we should hire this candidate.

    Our second line manager said we needed to hire this candidate as a matter of diversity (the IT group was 10 guys of varying races).

    It wasn't like we couldn't find qualified candidates, it's just that they were all men, and when a woman came along our 2nd line manager forced us to hire her.

    This woman didn't know how to reboot a solaris box and later took out one of our larger SANs.

    To this day when I interview somebody, I tell my peers/mgmt that if somebody isn't qualified, I won't recommend them 'no matter what our diversity training requires'
  • by jasonditz (597385) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @09:57PM (#14515236) Homepage
    Of course this is all antecdotal, but when I first got out of college, I was told by one of my interviewers (a staffing company that was hiring VMS sysops for a huge multinational) that they were being told specificially to not hire any white males for any of the entry-level positions, because the company was receiving a lot of bad publicity for not being "diverse enough".

    That's the neat part about the nation's obsession with skin color, we've managed to find a way to discriminate against everybody.
  • Finding racism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The AtomicPunk (450829) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:18PM (#14515364)
    "Racism" can be found wherever you look for it. Of course, not hiring someone because of skin color is not necessarily racism. Racism is the believe that people of one race are intrinsically superior to people of other races, not one race not hiring a person of another race - that's discrimination.

    In a free country, people are allowed to discriminate, but the government is not. Here, we have it the other way around - government is allowed to discriminate but people are not. If someone doesn't want to hire me because of my race, bfd. There are plenty of jobs, and they'll be worse off over the long haul for such narrow minded practices.

    Discrimination is kept alive by people like Jesse Jackson, who otherwise would be out of a career. Discrimination is propped up by "affirmative action" laws. Want to end it? Let's get back to a government that truly has equal protection under the law.
  • by patio11 (857072) on Friday January 20, 2006 @12:58AM (#14516416)
    ... of course, I work in Japan.
  • True story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfruhlinger (470035) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:12AM (#14518445) Homepage
    I met a white guy once whose name was Darius. About my age (early 30s now). His dad was a history buff and named him after the Persian king. He worked in IT.

    Once, for his job, he had to go be a liason for a brief period at another company. As it happened, this other company was one where he had applied for a job but hadn't gotten an interview the previous year. He liked the job he ended up getting, so he had no hard feelings.

    Somehow the fact that he had applied at this other company came up when he was on-site. The person he was working with was actually one of the people who had reviewed his resume. "Oh, yeah, I remember you!" he said. "See, we thought you were black because of your name. Ha ha! If we had know, we probably would have given you an interview."

    It's only one data point, but ... I'd say it still happens, yeah.

    jf

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