Many immigrants, particularly those of us from the geographical South, continue to face discrimination, particularly in employment and in the workplace. Once you get hired you then face, what is now coined in Australia, the bamboo ceiling.
Why? Implicit bias. We know employers tend to recruit people who look like them and act like them because they want people they “assume” they will get “along with”. I should know: a recruiter gently suggested that my job prospects may improve if I took my Anglo Australian partner’s family name or changed my name. Needless to say, I refused to do so.
Then you have the mateship practice. Historically, this practice was associated with helping others given that many immigrants arrived with no family and so friendships played a critical role -particularly in helping one another get through difficult times. But it continues to used widely to express loyalty to one’s mates in preference to society at large and undermines and contradicts the egalitarian principles this country is founded on. Why, because it puts immigrants at a distinct disadvantage when job hunting. Mateship is –in social economic parlance – social capital, and when you arrive in a new country you have to rebuild social capital which can take years, even decades.
Between the bias and the mateship that circumvent us, the tired old line of equal opportunity gives people of colour little comfort. Asian migants rarely complain and have come to expect to be discriminated against. And I, like many Asian parents, tell my 18 year old she has to work harder because she will experience discrimination. We accept discrimination in our usual stoic fashion for fear of seeming ungrateful to our host country.
One only has to look across at the United States which ensures social inclusion through affirmative action in recruitment and employment policies and practices. What I admire about the United States is that the rules are clear. If you get good grades, you are well on the way to being accepted at a good university, and securing an internship in a career you seek through the university and when there is an available position, you get first dibs. It is unfortunately not so straight forward here and it saddens me every time I talk to an Indian engineer graduate who is driving a taxi for a living.
But I was very encouraged when I saw this ad:
“The Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley is committed to providing equal opportunity in employment and encourages Indigenous Australians, young people, people with disabilities and people from culturally diverse backgrounds to apply for positions. “
It is very surprising to find this progressive Shire in such a remote part of Australia. Maybe there is a growing number of employers who are finally beginning to understand the real idea behind the value of a “fair go”.
We immigrants are aspirational – we want the freedom of choosing a career path and a realistic shot at the desirable jobs just like everyone else.