The Practicality of Equity in Human Resources (HR)

Posted By: Sandy Wiley Skinner AASPA Blog,

As I begin my seventh year as an HR professional, I cannot help but wonder what I have done to move
the needle with regard to equity. There is probably not a question as to why I wonder this considering
all that is occurring within the world today. The rates of violence and discriminatory acts against people
of color has increased with some people asking why. The one true way to support all in eliminating
discrimination is to humanize and create mirrored opportunities for all people to interact. Typically, the
more I speak and spend time with you, the more we connect and see each other as humans.

In addition, it has been an understanding that children of color do not often see themselves represented
in the people who have authority over them. As a child, in schools across America, everyone who
provides me with guidance, instruction, support, discipline, rules, etc. are people who do not look like
me. In some schools, children may only see the people of color as support staff, there to assist only.
When you consider the implications of this thought (for some children of color, the adults they see in
their everyday lives who look like them are not the people in power/control/leadership) it should
provoke a variety of questions for you. White children see themselves in the Superintendent, Principals,
Teachers, Counselors, and Nurses; while students of color see themselves as Custodians, Cafeteria
Workers, Bus Drivers, Crossing Guards and maybe Student Aides. This power dynamic that leans up
against students of color still exists today, in 2022.

What does this have to do with HR? Why is this a topic for the HR Department? Well, truthfully we
ensure each school has the staffing/people they need to support students. As an HR professional,
representation of all in every school should be a priority.

The practicality of representation is clearly linked to equity. While you may find varied definitions of
equity, the fundamental meaning that makes the most sense to me is that everyone is provided with
what they need to succeed; being fair and just with people. In actuality this concept is not difficult to
grasp or understand. As parents, guardians, advocates for children, we would expect each child to
receive what they need. We ensure schools have the professionals they need each year. This is our
responsibility. With that, I’d like to share how we can practically consider the equity found in staff
throughout our schools.

For example, if an elementary has 2 principals, 18 classroom teachers and 5 specialists; this totals 25
leaders within the school that are not of color. In addition, this school has a 15% student of color
population; totaling about 54 students. How can you work to ensure there is equity for those students?
If equity is being fair and just, thereby, ensuring all has what they need to succeed, then wouldn’t you
argue that it would be a need for the students of color to have someone in a position of authority in
their lives to be a representative of them? There is empowerment for children when they see
representatives of themselves. This encourages them to succeed; to forge ahead in careers they may
not have even thought about considering. This is all equity is, in a practical sense.

Here are some steps you can take in order to address equity in schools from an HR perspective:

1. Talk with your Superintendent about wanting to diversify the schools.
2. Annually, preview the demographics in your schools.

3. Schedule a meeting with the entire district administrative team to address your goals for equity
for students of color.

4. Identify the buildings with minimal or no representation for students of color.
5. Schedule a visit to the school. Speak with the principal.
6. Discuss with the principal how this is a reality within the school.
7. Find out about any historical knowledge related to hiring, previous teachers of color, etc.
8. Research the exit interview information. Did the school ever have a staff member of color? If
so, why did they leave?
9. Work with the principal to develop a plan to recruit staff of color, diverse backgrounds.
10. When the position is posted, preview the applicant pool and work to interview most of the
applicants who applied. This may be something that is spear headed by your office and in
concert with principals.
11. Create a ‘Want to Interview’ list. Ensure this list presents a diverse candidate pool.
12. Develop a hiring process flow chart. (See next blog)
13. Monitor the hiring process and demographics of who is hired.
14. Analyze your results, considering goals for next year.
15. Repeat.

The more you communicate and keep the hiring of diverse staff in front of your leadership team, the
more it becomes a natural priority.

I’m sure some will say, we are not wanting to hire someone just because they are a person of color.
Never, has that ever been my advice. What I am saying is this, the staff of color hiring pool in affluent
districts are typically the most educated and degreed staff. To suggest that hiring a staff member of
color would only be based upon their race is a biased statement filled with an understanding that they
are not as smart, professional or skilled as their white counterparts. Your administrators will provide a
rigorous interview process for all candidates. It is the hope that the staff of color are allowed to
interview and to be considered as equally as their non-colored colleagues. Your role as the HR
professional is to ensure there is a diverse applicant pool filled with qualified/educated staff.

Remember, this work is providing equity for the students of color that you serve. It is equitable, just,
fair for them to see themselves represented in their schools. If we do not, then as a by-product, we will
continue to struggle with the teacher shortage. Each year, the minority teaching pool becomes smaller
and smaller. This stems from, in part, students (at a young age) not seeing themselves in those roles.
We have not provided that clear connection.

However, we can start now. Practically, it is our obligation to all students.

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