Several months ago, while searching for a job, I came across a company, which had placed an advertisement for copywriters and proofreaders. Since I could apply online, I emailed them my resume and cover letter. The following day, I was glad to see they had replied. However, upon reading their message, my enthusiasm dwindled. They had asked me to fill out a “voluntary” survey – a questionnaire about my race and gender. Because the company had claimed to be an “equal opportunity employer,” I provided the requested information and returned it.
I never heard from the company again.
Being an African American woman, filling out those surveys has always made me leery. And this particular situation struck me as odd. So I looked over my resume – thinking there was some information on it, which had caused the potential employer to reject me so quickly without even offering an interview. During my perusal, I realized I had included the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) on my resume, which I had attended my freshman year. Although I have always been proud of the fact I have followed in the footsteps of many prominent African Americans by having attended a historically black university, I suddenly wondered if this part of my background had hindered me. Not from getting a job, but for consideration of one.
This prompted me to remove the HBCU from my resume. But that lapse in judgment did not last long at all. I came to the conclusion that any company that refused to judge me on my knowledge, experience and education is not one I need to work for anyhow.
In 1964, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission was created. Since then, most companies have waved the banner for diversity in the workplace. But actions speak louder than words. Much louder.
I remember when I had once worked a temporary job at Fisk University. That day, there had been a discussion among well-educated and successful Africans Americans about the difficulties they had encountered during their initial search for a career. One man incredulously explained how he had once been told by a major corporation he was not qualified to be an engineer, even though he had degrees and experience as one.
Many popular African American magazines frequently compile a list of companies that rank high in diversity. This information is very helpful. Therefore, should an individual ever apply to one of these companies and are asked to fill out the “voluntary” survey, requesting information about race and gender, he or she can rest assured this company does more than pay lip service to equal opportunity employment.
Nowadays, I proudly check every box which applies to me.
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