We Have the Position to Make a Difference

By Chris Miciek posted 06-10-2020 08:57


June 10, 2020

Chris Miciek is the director of the Career Development Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Dear NACE Peers,

We’ve marched. Good.

We’ve put up a yard sign voicing solidarity. Great.

We’ve ordered books and maybe signed up for reading groups. Fabulous.

We’ve participated in training on bias and racism. Excellent.

We’ve begun evaluating our office culture for bias and microaggressions. Wonderful.

We’ve changed and/or added to our resources to be more inclusive and move towards equity. Beautiful.

We’re engaged in the conversations in our campuses and organizations about advancing diversity, inclusion, and equity. Brilliant.

Now comes the real work.

The work we, and only we, are positioned to do. Anyone can check off the items on the above list. And we should be. We’re career development and talent acquisition professionals. We know more about the jobs economy than most people. We work at the amazing intersection of education and career helping year after year of students launch their careers and non-traditional students and alumni pivot or advance theirs. We are some of the most intimately connected with hiring as a system and with the technological systems and platforms that support that system. It is here we fight racism and discrimination.

It is not enough that we learn to create safe spaces for all our students. Any student affairs office can do that. Our front line is in how we as a society hire. Our expertise should examine that system and its technology in order to rebuild it into a just system. This isn’t about simple EEOC compliance. It’s asking and identifying all the ways access is restricted, then creating new ways. It’s addressing the very real tension of bottom line thinking vs real equity where the former always wins. It’s educating ourselves on the technology we use, where it comes from, how it really works, and what ways it perpetuates inequality and lack of access.

If we truly believe #blacklivesmatter, then it follows #blackcareersmatter. No group in our nation is better situated to take on this part of the challenge of building an equitable society. Do we dare to examine the system we all work in down to its roots and then build a new way for all to have equal access to career paths? Or will we be content with cosmetic changes to a system that remains inscrutable and inaccessible to far too many?

The task before us may seem daunting, but there are steps we can take. The first is education. Below I list three books (there are a number of others) particularly germane to the moment and space in which we find ourselves. Read at least one. I’d be happy to organize a reading group around one or more of them. Next, find and follow on Twitter computer scientists and ethicists working on the intersection of technology and racism. There are quite few. Those steps will help us get educated so we can implement real change.

The books:

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin

Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble

Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks