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La Opinión: Latina Senator Fights Bias in Hiring

By: Araceli Martínez Ortega

Long Beach Senator Lena Gonzalez will introduce on Friday the “Fair Hiring” bill in Sacramento, which aims to end discrimination against Latinos and other minorities in their efforts to find a job.

“The hiring system is completely outdated and broken. Despite all the progress in terms of workplace diversity, we’re no better off than we were 25 years ago,” she says.

“This harms minority and low-income job seekers by denying them equitable access and job opportunities. It also harms employers who want to diversify their workforce, but face challenges when they try to change their hiring practices,” the Senator added.

A 2017 study found that white applicants receive on average 36% more calls from companies in response to their job applications than black applicants, and 24% more compared to Latinos with identical qualifications.

In the high-tech sector in the Silicon Valley, only 3.3% of the workforce is black, 6.6% Latino, and 36.7% are women.

Another 2012 report reveals that by changing the name of a female applicant to a masculine name significantly improved the chances that her teachers would consider her resume for a position in the areas of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.

The problem, Senator González explains, is that many top companies only hire Ivy League graduates—who are significantly wealthier—for entry-level positions.

“This places low-income applicants at a disadvantage,” she says.

González notes that resume-based hiring opens opportunities for sexism, racism and bias.

“Resumes are full of demographic information and keys that can lead to conscious and unconscious bias,” she says.

Today, thanks to the internet, companies receive an average of 250 job applications for each position. This number can rise to thousands when it comes to a high-pay job with potential for promotion and pay rises.

According to the senator, resumes are a screening tool. “Recruiters spend an average of 5 to 7 seconds reviewing each resume, which means they can make decisions based on demographic keys,” she added.

Another very common tactic, González points out, is only to consider internal referrals, people who have worked with competitors or from top schools, which benefits the white, rich and well-connected, and leaves out people from minority groups.

What this legislation will accomplish 

The TECH Act will provide guidelines for employers and legal certainty to use new hiring technologies, proven to prevent bias, to enhance workforce diversity.

“The important benefit is that qualified candidates who are not considered for jobs because they do not have a certain family name or connections, will have a fair opportunity at the job,” she notes.

The Senator explains that this will not be a mandatory law at the moment. “This legislation works within the regulatory system and provides an option, a program consisting of a database to be used by employers who want to test new assessment technologies and ensure that they comply with anti-discrimination laws,” she concluded.

Employers with more than 100 employees are required by law to report their hiring numbers annually, through an EEO-1 report.

To comply with existing laws, employers shall be responsible for monitoring assessments, maintaining records of results, and producing them if a complaint is filed against them.

While this bill is not protection against discrimination claims, it provides a level of security for employers by using assessment technologies that monitor and remove bias when hiring new staff.

Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro C.H.A. in Long Beach, believes this measure will increase hiring opportunities for Latinos especially in tech companies.

“Today, there is discrimination based on color and race against Latinos, blacks, and other minorities,” Quintana notes.

“Unfortunately, when they see their applications, they are disqualified without giving them the opportunity to show who they are, and without assessing their skills and qualifications,” she added.

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