You're hired, Johnny! - Macleans.ca

You’re hired, Johnny!

Summer jobs, nepotism, and other unfair discrimination.

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First year has finished, too quickly for comfort, and the search for a decent summer job is by now long over for those smart enough to have begun it back in January. Those who have left it to the last minute are likely destined for pizza places and dish pits. Unless, of course, one is lucky enough to reap the rewards of nepotism, that power of connection that lands the otherwise unspectacular candidates coveted internships and other plum positions.

My own summer job is at least partially the result of a personal connection, as are the jobs of many of my friends. To find summer work in the Federal Department of Justice or at Canada’s High Commission to the UK, to name a couple examples, is next to impossible for the average 18-year-old first-year student without personal connections.

Is it fair that someone who, completely by chance, is born to a powerful family, should be afforded more opportunities than someone who is born to poor parents? Even if it isn’t fair, is it even possible to overcome, to control, to enforce equality over nepotism?

On a grander scale than the student summer job market, recent conversations with some of my more socially conscious peers have illuminated the deeply entrenched and often subconscious nature of unfair discrimination in our society.

For instance, one study, which followed more than 300 participants throughout their lives from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, found that “attractive adults are more able to procure aid from bystanders, they often have greater social influence, and they are favored in the job market and in the criminal justice system.” Once hired, attractive men and women have also been found to make more money, while income inequality between men and women is a well-known problem of discrimination.

Systematic discrimination against immigrants is another well-known phenomenon. One survey focusing on the experience of Latin American MBA graduates in the Canadian job market found that “75 percent of the respondents referred either to a general and unspecified sense of differential treatment due to not being Canadian or to the perception of different treatment based on accents or lack of Canadian experience.” Of course, discrimination against Hispanics in the United States is much more explicit, as demonstrated by the recent conviction of a 19-year-old Rhode Island man who killed an Ecuadorian immigrant while engaging in the widespread activity of “Mexican hopping,” which is essentially hunting for Hispanics to assault.

A University of Toronto economist found further support for the trend of discrimination in hiring processes when he sent out more than 6,000 resumes to Toronto-area employers. On some resumes, he changed the last name to an Asian sounding name and left all the qualifications the same. He found that resumes with non-Asian sounding names were 40 per cent more likely to be called in for an interview.

Such are the challenges facing pretty much everyone except good-looking white guys, apparently. Reaping the sweet fruits of nepotism is one easy way for us summer job seekers to help perpetuate the various unfair forms of discrimination upon which our society is built. See what a cynic first-year has made me?