In a recent Financial Post article Fiona MacFarlane discusses the next level of training leaders from diverse backgrounds. She came to Canada in 1987 armed with 4 degrees and eager to work, but employers probably saw her as “overqualified” and without direct Canadian work experience.
We are similar, as I have a degree and a diploma. But long ago, I was hired because of ethnic background. My Asian background put me over the edge for this contract job, and my employer was explicit about this fact in hiring me. Later I doubted my abilities. Was I just a token non-white face? Was I really qualified? I did not expect to feel that way, as I intellectually supported hiring quotas before my own experience. Today I qualify my support for hiring quotas and diversity programs. MacFarlane also says that Ernest & Young supports new hires with specific goals and measures results, along with promoting mentoring programs and cross cultural workshops. If I had been in such an environment, I don’t think I would have mixed feelings about diversity programs. There is a lot of value to hiring highly skilled people who don’t fit the mainstream profile based on sex, ethnicity, race and/or religious belief. I will stand by that but training, support, and overall education for the existing workers also need to be implemented.
I have also lived in a city where I was distinctly a visible minority. Upon reflection, the employers were most supportive of additional training and continuing education opportunities for me. I don’t think they saw me as Asian, but as someone who walked in the door with skills and talents that fit their needs. That is all I ask.
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