Employers nervous to "take a chance"

One university professor says leaders are often drawn towards people who are the same as them, leaving refugees and immigrants out in the cold

Employers nervous to "take a chance"

A top academic has urged employers to be vigilant of their own unconscious biases after a study showed refugee and immigrant millennials (RIMs) face an uphill battle when searching for jobs and securing promotions in New Zealand.

“I think many employers are aware of the additional barriers RIMs have to overcome but they are rather nervous to take a chance on people who look different, who sound different and who often dress differently,” says Edwina Pio, a professor in Auckland University of Technology’s faculty of business, economics and law.

“Quite often, the default mode of organisations is to progress those whom they are used to, people similar to themselves, because that’s what they know and that’s what they feel has been successful,” she continues.

However, Pio – who also serves as the university director of diversity for AUT – says employers are going to put themselves at risk if they continue to discriminate against RIMs.

“The issue is likely to become bigger particularly when we look at the importance of Asia Pacific RIMs and the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa,” says Pio.

“These countries have younger populations and they’re the ones sending students to our universities so the kind of millennials we’ll be getting in New Zealand is going to drastically change.”

Of course, Pio is quick to acknowledge that there are many organisations across New Zealand that are taking meaningful steps towards greater diversity and inclusion – however, she also says it’s always possible to do more.

“I think there has to be structural, institutional processes put into place which enhance your knowledge about the culture of different people,” she says. “These processes should encourage people to show their differences but respect those differences as well. Two people don’t have to agree but they can still honour one another.”

Visual representation and inclusive media, Pio says, is also an important element that shouldn’t be overlooked by organisations of any size.

“You have to have media which is inclusive, respectful and supportive,” Pio tells HRD. “Consciously share and publicize positive stories of people who are different, and how your organization progresses them in their careers and how training, coaching and mentoring works to boost the images of diversity working within your organization.”


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