Discrimination | IBM condemned for 'racist' labels in job application

IBM condemned for 'racist' labels in job application

IBM has come under fire for asking job applicants to choose from a selection of racially insensitive labels when describing their ethnicity – Bloomberg.com reports.

Part of the online applications for vacancies at the tech giant comprised of a drop-down menu where applicants were asked if they identified as Caucasian, Black, Indigenous, ‘Yellow’ or ‘Mulato’.

The Telegraph states that the latter two are offensive terms referring to people of east and southeastern Asian origins and those with one white and one black parent. This has sparked public furore virally.

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The technology behemoth has since apologised for the requested information regarding the applicant’s ethnicity on the company’s recruitment website. IBM Spokesperson Ed Barbini said: “Those questions were removed immediately when we became aware of the issue and we apologise.

“We do not use race or ethnicity in the hiring process and any responses we received to those questions will be deleted.”

And IBM was slammed over its ‘racist’ labels from various outraged candidates who took to Twitter to voice their fury.

A student from New York University, Alex Gao, told Bloomberg.com that he felt insulted after being obliged to choose between ethnic categories such as ‘yellow’ and ‘mulatto’ when trying to submit an application for a software design internship.

He wrote on Twitter: “I was appalled to be asked on an IBM internship application to choose my ethnic group and be given the choice of ‘yellow’”.

“I’m a graduate student so I’m in the middle of my application process and I haven’t seen this language used on any other applications,” Gao said. “I was really surprised, especially to see this coming from IBM, which I generally view as a top technology company.”

However, it seems that Gao wasn’t the only applicant to be furious with this ill-judged job application.

Rich Park, another insulted applicant probed on Twitter: “Aren't these ethnic group labels a little antiquated? To make matters worse, I couldn't submit my application w/o (without) selecting an option.”

Under UK law, employers are obliged to check a person’s eligibility to work in this country, but they are not allowed to ask applicants about their race, religion or nationality unless there is a genuine reason for the job role. The recruitmetnnetowrkclub.com states that terminology excluding someone based on race, religion or nationality shouldn’t be used in a job advert.

Here are two examples outlining a good and a bad way of determining job advert requirements:

  • Good: ‘Spanish speaking call handler’

  • Bad: ‘Spanish call handler’ or ‘native speaker of Spanish’

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