Education Career Services

February 25, 2009

Post-Racial Résumés?

Amy Lorenzo, Sr. Writer and keenly insightful career development professional is guest-writing today.  She brings up an excellent topic.  Enjoy and comment!

 

Since the election of Barrack Obama, the U.S. has been debating the role of race.  Does it matter anymore, or have we become a post-racial society?  Nearing the end of Black History Month—a celebration whose very purpose is being debated this year—tough questions arose for me when working on a career campaign for a highly talented African-American woman in science. 

 

The dilemma was this: Should I include a professional affiliation that would cue the reader to the candidate’s race? 

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Consider my role as a résumé writer for a moment.  Much like a defense attorney, I operate in the best interests of my clients.  Using every tool in my writerly toolbox, I underscore their accomplishments more forcefully, format their documents to draw the eye away from flaws, such as employment gaps, and so on.  I routinely omit information that might betray age, political affiliation, or religious leanings, aiming to avoid the trappings of stereotype and get my clients a fair shake in a sometimes unfair market. 

 

Race, however, gave me pause, especially when related to the sciences.  In its 2008 report on science and engineering, the National Science Foundation [http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind08/c3/c3h.htm] summarized the current situation:

 

“The proportions of women, blacks, and Hispanics in science and engineering occupations have continued to grow over time, but are still less than their proportions of the population.” 

 

The statistics show women holding 26% of non-academic science and engineering positions (not 50%), and African-Americans holding 5% (not 13.5%). 

 

To combat this systemic underrepresentation, some organizations have adopted proactive stance toward inclusion.  To these companies, my client’s minority status might be considered an asset, a chance to boost diversity while gaining the talent of an outstanding individual.  If race made her stand out in this tight job market, when each opening is greeted with hundreds of great candidates, so be it.  On the other hand, if race sparked a negative reaction—even an unconscious one—then a passing mention would be a disservice. 

 

I had to ask myself, where do we stand as a country?  Certainly, we’ve moved beyond the clumsy application of quotas, but isn’t diversity still a “value-add” in an increasingly cross-cultural, global economy?  We are for equal opportunity all the way to the Presidency, but to what extent is this ideal reflected in our day-to-day hiring practices?  From the evidence, we’re getting better, but we’re not there yet.

 

Having no success with my internal debate, I dealt with this issue as I do most: I confronted it on paper.  In putting together a one-page “marketing” résumé, I weighed each piece of information carefully.  After detailing the impressive accomplishments my client had amassed, I found there simply wasn’t room for anything else.  As usual, I passed over lists of memberships and community activities that weren’t central to the client’s “professional branding statement” in favor of hard-hitting, quantifiable achievements that were.

 

In the end, I wrote a post-racial résumé…without believing we live in a post-racial world. 

 

So what do you think?  How do you deal with race or other identity issues within your career development process?  Or is this discussion even relevant anymore?

 

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Education Career Services www.educationcs.com

Career Services International www.careersi.com

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