Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Checking that sexual orientation box

When employing people at universities in the UK they like to be fair. They go out of their way to promote that they don’t discriminate, and will hire the best candidate for the job, regardless of gender, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation.

In order to keep track of what kind of people apply, and who is hired and who gets not, they employ a monitoring system. This basically means that whenever you apply for a job at a UK university they make you fill in a form where you have to indicate such details as your gender, ethnic background, nationality, marital status, religion and sometimes they also include sexual orientation.

I have no problem filling in these forms, but whenever I come to the section on the form that says sexual orientation, it always makes me feel a bit weird. I am out, and I generally have no problem with people knowing that I am gay. However, it is not something I would normally mention in a job interview.

This form is of course anonymous, or at least it is for administrative purposes only, and it is not supposed to be seen by the hiring committee. Still, every time I check the gay/lesbian box on the form I cannot help but wonder if this is going to affect my chances of getting the job.

Is this paranoia, or could the form designed to protect me actually do me harm? And if the latter were true, would I really want a job they would not have given me if they had known I was gay?


mega said...

If you're supposed to not be discriminated by any reason what so ever, isn't it discrimination already when you have to fill in those forms?
Specially when it applies to sexual orientation. Unless you're applying for a whore house, what role will your sexual orientation have on your professional ability?

I think these kinds of things that are supposed to make us all equal, are actually making a stand on what we differ. If we are truely the same it shouldn't make any sense to point out our differences, whatever they may be.

In other words: it's just plain stupid!

PS-This applies to the LGB movements that fight for same rights with different laws demands for gay people! Just make it inclusive not exclusive! Dumbasses! (sorry, couldn't help myself)

unikyu said...

Warning, warning: Long comment lol

Ahh.. the simple catch 22 of life, no? Wouldn’t we all just want to be dealt with as people on one grand playing field without having preconceived notions about our individual personalities, thoughts and contributions based on what we look like, how we speak or who we love etc. stand in our way?

Alas, life is not so kind. So as long as there has been a history of exclusion based on gender, nationality, skin colour and the like, inequality is somehow inherent in the system and something has to be put into place to level the playing field (which requires that the historical underdogs be identified), that is, if we want to give everyone a fair chance, and if an employer truly wants to hire the best candidate to get the job done.

Long and short, an employer cannot hire you if they don’t know you exist, and let’s face it, many people can’t even get a foot in the door because of biases that have been built into the employment/housing systems, so something has to give. That something seems to be accounting and political power. The higher a group’s number in the census, the more opportunity they will have to build their political power to effect positive changes and balance the scale of equality. Only way to really chart the numbers is to ask people to check the box. More box checkers, more political clout, more visibility, less stigma and impractical emotional responses based on ‘differences’, and ultimately, more opportunities for people to be judged solely on the work skills they bring to the job.

A catch 22: history makes it necessary to separate to make things more equal.

Like you MEGA, I can’t imagine why a person’s sexual preference should have an impact upon the job to be performed if that job doesn’t have to do with sexual preference. In my mind’s eye, it’s kinda like asking someone to check the ‘do you prefer blonds’ box in some ways. But, hey, society even has blonds pegged as having more fun and being more dizzy so that might even impact upon an employer's assessment of the candidate’s judgment lol.

Shame it has to be this way, but can’t think of any other way to go than to create those boxes and for people to really check them. That said lol… will hafta admit that I personally tend not to help the matter cause ‘other’ is usually my first pick on most categories.

That said, will add… Asexual is a bonafide category for sexual orientation and deffo has enormous ramifications for society in terms of no sexual attraction – no sexual activity – no procreation which is also the basis of family, but there is no box for this. At least a gay person offers society an opportunity to reproduce and build family etc.

NATAZZ, when I was learning how to write my C.V., I was told to put anything (hobbies, past experiences etc.) that would make me stand out from the rest. Granted playing golf or volunteering at the local soup kitchen is not the same as a sexual identity, but checking that box might get your C.V. noticed and then at least the employer could get a glimpse at the pertinent skills you have to offer.

Natazzz said...

Thanks guys for the great comments.

Just wanted to give you a little update: Some of those universities that made me check their sexual orientation boxes, have now invited me for interviews. Thus, it hasn't hurt me so far...

~wicked~ said...

girls...i'm having HUGE issues with the acceptance of these check-boxing criteria! O M this actually legal in your country??? as it is not legal here in Canada...these questions are not allowable according to our Human Rights Commission...they are hugely frowned upon as these types of questions: marital status, sexual orientation, religion, etc are definitely considered discrimanatory questions.

Natazzz said...

Actually, they are not allowed to ask any of these questions during the interview process, but administration makes you fill out the form so they can check whether the interview committee is objective or not.

So once a year they check all the people hired against their forms to see how many gays, christians, disabled, etc. were hired and turned down.

It's a weird system, but how else are you going to check it?