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A fair chance to thrive starts with banishing harmful stereotypes

February 22, 2021

By: Naeema Hassan

Navigating the employment world carries complex issues that can leave many youth feeling isolated and hopeless. 

For BIPOC youth, these complexities are compounded by the impact of exhausting experiences around racial bias and discrimination. 

Research has shown that race-related stress can evoke negative feelings like anger, frustration, helplessness and hopelessness, which in turn can elevate depressive symptoms and anxiety.

I personally remember days when my intersecting identities as a black, Muslim woman, weighed heavier on my shoulders as I entered multiple interview rooms that felt cold and intimidating. 

Experiences like these hurt my self-esteem and confidence. Subtle yet evident racial biases and assumptions from interviewers sometimes made me feel like I didn’t have any valuable skills or talent to bring to the table. It gave me a sinking feeling that I was never going to be good enough in spaces I used to be so sure I’d succeed in.

These experiences are impactful and damaging. 

I remember a friend of mine who broke down in my arms expressing that she was tired of chasing something that she felt was running away from her. Her struggle to land a job brought on the belief that her identity in a competitive job market placed her at a greater disadvantage than her peers.

“In one field experiment, published in 2011, University of Toronto researchers sent almost 8,000 resumes to employers in Canada’s three largest cities. They found that job seekers with names like Matthew Wilson were 35 per cent more likely to get a callback than those with a name like Samir Sharma, regardless of work experience, education or language proficiency.

“Am I good enough?” “Is my name too “ethnic”?” “What if I change the tone of my voice?” “Is there even a point of applying?”

These are everyday questions that I’ve asked myself despite being an exceptional young person who is hardworking and ambitious. 

So, how can we end this harmful cycle and start to challenge these stereotypes? 

If individual circumstances and talent for each candidate were taken into consideration, we could look beyond appearances and understand the true value one can bring to a team or organization.

We can also put more effort into having more representation of BIPOC youth in leadership positions. In fact, a study by Glassdoor showed that 67 percent of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when applying for employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. 

This solution will have a two-fold effect: an inspiration for youth to “be what they can see”, while challenging negative stereotypes of BIPOC youth.  

I’ve learned that when youth have access to someone that is open to supporting them on their employment journey it brings comfort and ease and lifts their confidence! If all youth had access to this kind of support, all youth would have a fair chance to thrive. 

 

Opportunity For All Youth is unshakeably committed to addressing racism, racial bias and discrimination in the interview process and are partnered with employers who are as well.

If you are between 15-29 and are having difficulty finding employment, register for the InterviewME Youth Talent Pool for job opportunities in your area.

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