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La Opinión: How to end biased hiring in California

Opinion Article by California State Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Julian Canete

The population of the United States is becoming increasingly diverse, and the proportion of Hispanic, Asian and African-American communities is growing every year. New data reflects that this shift towards populations where the majority is not white is occurring faster in California than in any other state.

The city of Los Angeles, and in fact, Los Angeles County as a whole, are important examples of this demographic trend across the state. Approximately half of these populations identify with a Hispanic or Latino heritage. By far, the largest ethnic group in its first years of work is Hispanic.

California has the fifth largest economy in the world. But, unfortunately, the diversity of our great state is not reflected in the industries and companies with the greatest income potential. In their most recent demographic reports , Google, Apple and Facebook revealed that their technical workforce is composed of 77% men. In the Silicon Valley high-tech sector , only 3.3% of the employees are African-American, 6.6% Hispanic and only 36.7% female.

Study after study suggest that hiring results such as these are the product of a systemic bias or bias. White applicants receive, on average, 24% more responses than Hispanic applicants and 36% more than black applicants with identical resumes. The curriculums that have been edited to exclude the signs belonging to a different race white go much better in the application process. The employers look for candidates, partly depending on whether share cultural similarities such as hobbies, life experiences and personal presentation styles.

Of course, this systemic bias harms non-white job seekers. But it is also hurting employers. New hires fail almost 50% of the time, which costs time, money and damages morale in the workplace.

There are new technologies of artificial intelligence and based on algorithms that, when developed ethically, can evaluate each candidate for a job while they are completely blind to the ethnic or cultural background of that person. If companies used them more widely, they would open ways of hiring and promoting women and minority candidates that are often disregarded. But there are no rules of use that govern these technologies, which makes employers more likely to rely on outdated and biased hiring practices.

California is already leading workplace protection for women and minority groups. It has prohibited discrimination based on natural hairstyles, previous wages and criminal records.

Now, we are working together to give the Hispanic and African American communities of Los Angeles and California in general a fair chance to be hired.

We have introduced the Fair Hiring Resolution (ACR 125), which requires that we take measures to end discrimination when hiring in our state by promoting new technologies that have been shown to reduce biases. The proposal will be considered in the Assembly and the State Senate this week. We urge legislators to vote “yes” and to record that they recognize that recruitment bias is a real problem, and that developing a legislative solution must be a priority in the 2020 parliamentary session.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer represents South Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone, Walnut Park and a part of Huntington Park.

Julian Canete is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of California.

Read online here.