I have no trouble finding Latino staff members: Proof there isn’t a level playing field

When I send bills to clients, I often, both for their information and mine, include the initials for the staff members being charged to that project. Of course, people are charged at different rates and this helps us internally keep track of who is being charged to what project and also allows us to easily respond to any questions a client may have about billing. Usually they know who is working on their project because they are working face to face, but if it is a research assistant checking references, for example, they may not.

Sending out an invoice tonight I noticed the names

AnnMaria (me), Castillo, Ortiz

In my in-box, two people who are working on another project – Flores, Ochoa

Also in my in-box,  email from another Flores (no relation to the first).

Our medical director is a Flores (he is related to the first).

What exactly is going on here?

Well, the Ortiz has a journalism degree from NYU, teaches at Tufts University and has a long list of publications. She is also my daughter. When I need top-notch editing, I turn to her.

Also, my second daughter, Jenn, is doing a few weeks of work for us this summer. Jenn has a history degree, a teaching credential and masters from USC. She has taught middle school for three years. When I needed someone to fly to Washington, DC to do a bit of research on social studies education for middle school students, I immediately thought of her. She went to a Catholic elementary school that was 85% Latino.

The Castillo is her best friend from those days and when I was looking for a research assistant, she was available.

The Ochoa is another of Jenn’s friends, someone she met in college in San Francisco, and when I was looking for an animator, he was available. I had seen his work previously because Jenn had shown it to me, so when I needed an animator, I thought of him. He has an art degree and loads of experience with Flash and other 2-D animation.

The Flores is my old friend’s son, from way, way, way back. I knew the family before he was born, saw him grow up, saw his mega-talented art work and this is now the fourth project for which I have hired him. He has an art degree and loads of experience with graphic design.

The other Flores is a former co-worker I used to drink beer with a few years ago. He has a degree from USC, a ton of experience and is supremely reliable.

So … if I have no trouble finding Latino staff members, what does that say about affirmative action? Well, as I said on this blog previously, I’m not 100% sure I’ve ever met another Hispanic statistician. I don’t know a lot of business owners who are Hispanic who are in technical fields – and I get out a lot.

None of those jobs were advertised. The connection that all of those individuals had is that they knew me or they knew someone who knew me. Don’t get me wrong, they are all also very talented, intelligent and reliable. If you know me and I know you are an idiot, it doesn’t help you.

My point is that I am pretty sure that most small business owners are exactly like me. When you have a small company every hire is important. We can’t afford deadweight and if you are really outstanding you’ll make a great difference here, not like working at General Dynamics and making their stock go up .0001 point after 30 years.

So …. I would bet that there are fewer opportunities for Latino young people starting out (and Native Americans and African-Americans) because they know fewer people who are in a position to give them that start. It’s not that white business owners start out saying,

“I’m only going to hire white people.”

I certainly did not start out saying,

“We are going to have Latino preference.”

We don’t. We also hired two people this year who are Native American and I am sending a contract out to a third this week. Again, they were people I knew and people who knew people I knew.

My point is that many white business owners and employers say they, personally, do not discriminate. I believe them. However, they point to the fact that neither they, nor anyone they know, deliberately discriminates as proof there is a level playing field. I’m not so sure.

Yes, I realize that my personal experience is not a random sample. Yes, I do know that the plural of anecdotes is not data. It makes me wonder, though, when every name on the invoice is a Hispanic one,  how often the flip side happens in other companies. You honestly, sincerely look for people who are competent, have the right degrees, the right experience, good references from people you trust – and somehow all of the people you hire look like you.

Me and my sisters

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