By Dr Ashika Chapman, Khartoum American School SEN Coordinator
Inclusion, cultural diversity and equity are an indication of what society is today and should always be represented. Educators must support this equity, inclusion and diversity within each and every classroom to nurture harmony and regard for all. Every child enters the classroom with an incorporation of racial and social biases they may have learned from their social environment, neighbors, and their families. As educators, we can model change within our own systems and have the ability to encourage positive attitudes, instill moral values, as well as cultivate a sense of awareness for all.
However, this only stops within the classroom. My recent experiences in trying to move into senior leadership positions has taught me that despite what recruiting organizations may state about moving forward since Black Lives Matter, they fail to look past the ‘number of years of experience’. Recruiting organizations who are supposedly seeking to diversify by applying an equity lens are not willing to look past a person’s number of years of experience. A job description provides the framework within which responsibilities and coveted skills, experience, and capabilities to effectively perform the work required but it also conveys the beliefs of the school. It is advantageous and key to initially assess how the senior administration position being selected for can propel the value objectives of a school and how such desires and duties can be incorporated into the set of working responsibilities. Whilst these recruiting organizations work on behalf of schools to recruit senior leadership positions, internationalism, diversity, inclusion and equity are not being integrated.
While experience is important, it is also advantageous and key to initially assess how the senior leadership position can set in motion the equity goals of the organizations recruiting and how such desires can be incorporated into the set of working responsibilities. It is necessary to acknowledge and be mindful when reviewing the resume and interview process that may assist in counterbalancing the impact of internal biases. Recruiting organizations need to spend time to review what their goals are for the role and how that is connected to the equity work, as well as mission and vision statement of the school, as part of the criteria for consideration. The need to have diversity amongst recruiters and have a fair representation of people of color is crucial. It is also necessary for the recruiting organizations to participate in bias training by simply reviewing the content in order to raise the understanding of what bias is and procedures for tending to biasness in the selection. The recruiting organization needs to first look on how they can contribute to work on racial equity and the first step to eliminate institutional racism is to look past that “number of years of experience”.
The “old school” of the recruiting process still applies as organizations do not look beyond experiences. From my last article in March, 2020, “Looking across the board in the international school circuit, the most senior administrative positions within international schools are held by those from a small group of western nationalities”, Blacks, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) do not hold many senior leadership positions, making it almost impossible for us to be considered in any of these positions to begin with. In the course of recruitment, only experiences appear to be the issue forgetting about different elements like highest level of education, networking, organizing, the capacity to communicate in another language as the position will be working with a specific group of people, the capacity to flex correspondence style to various stakeholders, excellent in both written and verbal skills, and the ability to work within a diverse group of stakeholders. I believe these too, are experiences.
While there are still gender disparities in senior leadership positions in the international circuit, the number of BIPOC in senior leadership positions are fairly minimal. When a recruiter fails to look past experiences, BIPOC will indeed not be considered. As many recruiting organizations seem to say they are moving towards inclusion, diversity and equity, these are merely words. Traditional forms of recruiting serve to advantage white applicants because senior leadership positions usually comprise of that same small group of western nationalities. When this becomes the major criteria in recruitment; bias, regardless of intent will play a role in the hiring processes. Relying on this so called “experiences” will result in diminishing the levels of qualified candidates of color in the pool of applicants.
Basing decisions on suitability for the role other than number of years of experience with no regard to other skills that someone may bring to the position or consideration about having a good match between the candidate and the school seems to be the norm. This whole process reeks of privilege and is totally archaic. When schools have given all control of recruitment to a recruiting organization, the organization has the right to overwrite the school in the hiring process. Leaving the decision to a recruitment organization where only one person decides on the short-list of candidates raises the question of “old school ties” and “old boys’ network”. Senior leadership positions in international schools tend to go to certain “people” with a preference given to those that shared the same background, university, nationality or external interest. For those within the “network” these things function to form bonds of inclusion, whilst simultaneously excluding others on the basis of gender, ethnicity, culture and lifestyle.
Schools should perhaps reconsider hiring recruiting organizations to shortlist candidates. Keeping in mind that both recruiting organizations and senior leadership positions are mainly held by western nationalities, I do not see how BIPOC will be able to move into senior leadership positions if all recruiters look at is the number of years of experience. What happened to type of experiences? Nothing will change whilst everyone is busy pretending it isn’t happening.
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