Oct 29, 2007

Unconscious Bias still exists

Unfortunately, it seems like caste and religion based discrimination is still strong in India. Even with the "talent crunch" and "booming economy"

Prof. Shukla blogs on:

the findings of a recent study, which was done by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) and Princeton University:

"The researchers filed 4,808 applications for 548 jobs advertised in English newspapers over 66 weeks starting October 2005. Applications by equally-qualified males from higher upper castes, Dalits and Muslims were filed for each vacancy and the response from the corporate sector was shocking.

While all higher upper caste candidates were called for interviews for a particular job vacancy, only 67% Dalits and 33% Muslims were contacted."

The study, original paper published in The Economic & Political Weekly (Oct 13, 2007) mentions the methodology:

"The research staff prepared sets of three matched application letters and résumés (in English) for each type of job. These applications had identical educational qualifications and experience. All the résumés and cover letters presented strong applicants for the job opening: they had suitable degrees from reputable universities...

The only aspect of family background that was communicated in these applications was the applicant’s name, yet this was enough to generate a different pattern of responses to applications from Muslims and dalits, compared to high caste Hindu names. These were all highly-educated and appropriately qualified applicants attempting to enter the modern private sector, yet even in this sector, caste and religion proved influential in determining ones job chances...
These discriminatory outcomes occurred at the very first stage of the process that Indian university graduates go through to apply for a job...."

So what can be done? Do recruiters and sourcers need to be made aware of their deep seated biases, which maybe they don't even know exists? Because if they are aware of it and still do it, it means that they are actually depriving their organizations of talented employees. Indian organizations need to take a long hard look at their recruiting and selection processes and ensure that they actually are inclusive.