Arab College Graduates - Wasted Talent?
In recent years the corporate world has been undergoing an attitude change. More and more companies are considering how to cast themselves as entities that promote universal social goals - and not just to generate profits. In the past many companies met their obligations by donating money to needy causes. Later there was a growing sense this was not enough and they would have to do more, i.e. demonstrate active involvement in community projects. Managers and businessmen were found who didn't merely donate money, but also took part in the public administration of organizations working for the sake of the community and the public good. This caught on to such an extent that managers and businessmen stood out as anomalies if they were unable to point to any community enterprise.
Not Just Monetary Contributions
A new concept began to become widespread in recent years in the corporate world - corporate responsibility. This includes the demand from companies whose influence is on the rise, in part due to globalization, to conduct themselves as good citizens of the world by not taking advantage of their power but giving of it, not just for generating profits, but for the good of all.
Discrimination Not Always Deliberate
In order to help work toward solving this problem an organization called Kav Mashveh was recently formed as "a coalition of employers for equality for Arab college graduates." The director of the center is a well-known public figure, Israel Prize laureate Dov Lautman, an industrialist who founded and for many years managed Delta Textiles.
Worthwhile From a Commercial Standpoint, Too
Adi Bilder, former human resources director of HP Israel and currently vice president of human resources at ECI Telecom, said many high-tech companies have a very homogeneous worker profile of "people who served in certain units in the army and earned their degree from well-known universities and faculties. Recruiting employees at companies like this typically involves turning to and responding to this sector," he says.
A staff made up of people from a range of cultural backgrounds can invariably raise additional ideas and unconventional work methods because the thought patterns of the staff members weren't formed in the same melting pot. Furthermore, working on a varied staff creates openness and acceptance of others, their approaches and their views. This approach also has ramifications for working with figures outside of the staff
However, Bilder is also aware of the difficulty that lies in this approach among managers and workers. Therefore, he says, efforts should be made to get company directors to make a commitment to this issue. He said at Indigo (which was later acquired by HP) this commitment brought results in the form of Arab recruits. He also notes the human resources department must create awareness among unit managers at the organization.
He also says it should be taken into account that the Arab student in line for a job offers a series of advantages that do not appear in his resume. For instance, the very fact he went to college and now is seeking work in fields that are not traditionally pursued in the society he comes from indicate he has a pioneering spirit. Bilder notes that studies conducted in the
From the employers' perspective it seems established recruiting and screening patterns lie at the heart of the matter. Conference participants raised the issue of cultural gaps between recruiters and Arab job candidates. Dr. Lihu Weissberg of the Adam Milo Screening Institute tried to illustrate this phenomenon by citing academic parlance. He noted that in entrance tests for psychology faculties, interviewers ask prospective Arab students questions on their relationship with their father. A Jewish candidate would readily answer the question whereas an Arab candidate could see the discussion as an insult to his father. His response could lead the interviewer to assume the candidate is unsuited to study psychology. Other speakers at the conference agreed that the Arab job candidate might have a lower chance of getting hired merely because of cultural gaps between him and the non-Arab interviewer. "An Arab student," said Halad Abu Asba, CEO of the Messer Institute, "has a chance of getting hired only if his grades are significantly above average."
Bilder noted that employee referral programs, which are rightfully considered successful, are anti-variety by nature. People tend to bring in friends who resemble them. Such a method would only contribute to varying the staff after a breakthrough is made by bringing in an Arab employee who would recommend his friends.
Speaking at the conference Anat Nissan, human resources director at PWC's Keselman and Keselman Accountants, said variety and multiculturalism is a way of life at international firms, where multiculturalism is built into their organizational culture. The natural expectation of workers employed at such a firm is to function in a multicultural environment. Her company has workers from the former
Summing up the discussion Arna Segal, CEO of Manpower
What Creates the Difference?
In conclusion, awareness of this issue has risen recently as greater importance gets attached to social responsibility increases due to the desire to point to the organization's openness to recruit additional segments of the population to its ranks, the understanding that Israel has a professional workforce whose contribution can be utilized and the rising pressure in the field applied by a growing number of Arab college graduates seeking to enter the job market in a wider range of industries. All of these factors are having an effect as evidenced by the formation of an organization like Kav Mashveh.
A newspaper report appearing the day after the conference said, "Dozens of Arab employees are slated to be hired at the Electric Corporation's 103 hotline." According to the article, which was published in Ha'aretz, "Bringing minorities into the Electric Corporation has gone into practice in recent days. Among 65 employee hired to work at the company's phone lines, ten are young Arabs. This group was selected from among 300 Arab applicants after the company placed ads in the Arab press as well. The move is based on instructions by the board of directors to include minorities in every personnel recruitment drive."