Racism and the workplace
While HR in the region may still be in its formative stages, we should be ashamed of the openly discriminatory policies on display.
February 8, 2011 3:42 by shafeer
The Great Place to Work Institute recently released a report on the state of HR maturity in the UAE. If you are bracing yourself for another Kipp tantrum, then you, dear reader, have got our number. HR maturity in the UAE? HR in the UAE? With no disrespect to the few exceptions to the rule, HR in the UAE, like developed health care and developed public transport, is a bit of a myth.
Back to The Great Place to Work Institute report: Apparently “The top companies to work for in the UAE implement HR practices comparable to those of best companies in more developed markets, according to research from the Great Place to Work Institute.” Given that their list of the top 10 companies to work for include MNC’s like Microsoft, Pepsi and FedEx, that really isn’t saying much at all for the working culture of local companies.
Anyway, as we continued to read the reasons why these companies are claimed to have ‘HR maturity’ comparable to international standards, one particular criteria struck us: “Anti-discrimination policies and corporate social responsibility programs also rated highly in contributing to employees’ trust and pride in their organizations.”
Hold on just a second.”Anti-discrimination policies”? In the UAE? How can companies, forced to push for Emiratisation on one hand be pursuing ‘anti-discrimination policies’ on the other? Well, to be fair, Emiratisation quotas are most strongly enforced with regards to government and semi-government organizations; it’s quite possible those mega MNCs are immune to such pressures.
But this got Kipp thinking: the UAE has a stinking record when it comes to racial discrimination in the work force. Consider the following:
When looking out for a job, go on to any job hunting website or tabloid section, and you’ll see that it is not uncommon for companies to include a preference for a particular nationality as part of the job description. “American, British, Westerners ONLY” may read the description (just a few words short of blonde, blue eyed, with a history of colonization, thinks Kipp). Or the ad may go a different route, “Arab speakers, preferably Lebanese.” When Kipp was looking out for a job once, we even saw a listing from a popular TV station in the UAE that requested people with “American British accents ONLY.”
Such blatant selective bias displayed in job ads is reflective of serious discriminatory recruitment policies. And let’s say you managed to charm the socks off your racist employer regardless of nationality – the chances are the passport you hold is likely to determine your salary. To offer you some anecdotal evidence: Kipp knows two friends in very similar middle management levels, both of whom were of Jordanian origin and of similar qualifications. But they have very different salaries. The difference? One holds an American passport and the other a Jordanian passport. Guess who gets more?
Have you experienced discrimination in the work place? Do you think the UAE can ever overcome this seemingly ingrained trait? Or is it only enlightened multi-nationals who can show the way?