Where do I start with this article……well……some background info first before we get into it.
Some excitement; the phone rings and it’s a head hunter. “You’ve been recommended to us by a commercial client based on some Equality & Diversity work you have done for them in the past and we would like to see you about a potential Global Diversity job”.
“Excellent!” I say. “I’ll send you my CV and you can send me the JD and let’s organise to meet.”
A couple of days elapse and the head hunter drops me an email saying they would like to meet at their offices in central London and that the role is for a fairly small but very well run and profitable financial services firm. After some basic discussions on salary expectations, my experience, skills and a few testimonials sent by me from previous clients & past employers we organise to meet. So far so good!
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ended and the nightmare began…both for me and the head hunter.
So….we meet and are having discussions. The head hunter seems far less enthusiastic than when we were discussing my experience and CV on the phone.
Noticing this I ask if there is an issue or something they are concerned about. Taking that as a cue to give me some honest advice the head hunter remarks “Would you be willing to cut off your dreadlocks for this role? The environment is very corporate and European and I think it would make it difficult for you to work there.”
Stunned silence for a second from me. So I ask….”We are talking about a diversity role….?”
Unfortunately, the head hunter missed this opportunity to backtrack and insisted “I know they take a long time to grow but you’ll never work in the financial sector with hair like that. After all it’s just a hairstyle right? So, would you be willing to cut it? It will help engaging with stakeholders because it might be difficult otherwise.”
Obviously…..lacking a bit of awareness, but I’m now in no mood to help her out.
I say….“To clarify, you are suggesting that in order to do a global diversity job I will need to make myself look as European as possible to ensure I can engage the required stakeholders?”
“Yes, I think it would help.”
I explained quite calmly…”I am a Rastafarian and asking me to cut off my locks is similar to asking a wheelchair user to walk to work in the mornings. I think this meeting is over.”
Cue a very confused looking head hunter with the penny slowly dropping that she was way off piste.
As my pre-teen daughter would say…..Awkward!
I left the meeting thinking:
1: Did that really just happen in 2014?
2: Recruiting for a global diversity job and the main piece of advice in relation to my skills and ability was that I should definitely cut off the dreadlocks if I wanted this job…or any job in the financial sector. Am I the only one that finds that more than slightly ironic?
3: Her career advice was essentially to assist this employer and employers in the financial sector generally to pander to racist stakeholders. I wonder if she thought that would really sell the employer to me?
4: And here is the devil’s advocate position……..knowing the client would never hire me no matter how well I fit the JD was she trying to do me a “favour” and be honest with me?
Well……..no matter whether she was trying to do me a “favour” and be honest, just ignorant or worried she’d be in trouble for sending a black man with dreadlocks to her client for interview (although they wanted to see me based on my CV….no pictures included though!) I left that meeting thinking …still……in 2014? Wow….
Vercida works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with Vercida to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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