ALT, Antiracism, Conferences, Development & Training, Discrimination, Inclusivity, Recruitment

Preparing for ALT 2021 Winter conference – showcasing discrimination in job adverts or not

Presentation entitled “We are committed to diversity and equality of opportunity”: an intersectional text analysis of job postings in learning technology

The presentation is planned to be delivered in two parts: (1) the importance of intersectionality to be presented by Dr Monica Chavez and (2) the recruitment part for me. From the conference abstract submitted, we had in mind to present a text analysis of job adverts. Nevertheless, while preparing slides, we quickly realised we were getting into dangerous waters. Although it would have been ideal to strip an advert live we both knew there might be subsequent emotional distress among the audience.

My concern is that I do not know who would be attending our presentation, and there could well be, among the audience, people who have applied for those posts. There are 3 main stakeholders to be considered in this scenario:

  1. The successful applicant filling the post
  2. Unsuccessful applicants who got rejected
  3. The hiring department and institution

Stripping an advert live carries risks for any of those 3 stakeholders, and I am most concerned about the successful and unsuccessful applicants.

For readers to better comprehend the risks here, the following is written considering you are the stakeholder.

In general, if you have successfully secured a job, you would be thrilled to be in the post, unless of course, you are not passionate about the job you have applied for – but let us stick with you the first scenario for this post. When it comes to racism, people do not like to feel guilty about being on the racist side. Although you have nothing to do with the recruitment process, there is the risk of you feeling guilty of being part of a department that has shown discrimination in the recruitment process. How would you feel knowing that you secured a job where there was social injustice in the recruitment? I am concerned about you, and the emotions that might come up.

Undoubtedly, if you have been unsuccessful in securing a job, you are a bit upset about it. Now if you are told that there was discrimination in the advert itself – frustration might come up, frustration towards the hiring manager, the hiring institution, and the system in general. Whilst this frustration can be nurtured to take action-oriented measures, the subsumed emotional distress is not one that you would want to deal with. I am concerned about you, and the emotions that might come up.

Why is the hiring department/institution a stakeholder here

The hiring institution is unquestionably the main point of failure here. But what must not be overlooked, is the inadequate knowledge and understanding of racism throughout the hiring chain. Highlighting discrimination in a vacancy runs the risk that the particular institution, HR team, and department involved, adopt (1) retaliation measures (2)become defensive and closed to improvement. What may subsequently ensue, is a series of internal measures to check vacancies within the parameters of the law, but not within the parameters of social injustice.

All in all, as I write this post, I have designed an alternative, but yet, engaging exercise for the audience, one that will definitely be thought-provoking.

Post edit: Here are links to the slides, takeaway notes, and recording. Apologies for the poor sound quality in the recording, I have included a blog post with the activities. Happy reading below 🔻

Post edit: I have published a blog where I cut through a few live job advert blurbs, I would recommend reading through it. Happy reading below 🔻

Equity analysis of 6 job blurbs – podcast for TalkingHE“. The podcast was recorded on 22nd Dec 2021, at the time of the recording, all the job adverts discussed in this podcast were live, with closing dates set in the future.

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