Students snagged face time with potential employers as Stony Brook’s Career Center hosted its 12th annual Diversity Recruitment Networking Event on November 8.
Students and alumni got a chance to hear from and meet with recruiters from 30 Long Island employers across a broad spectrum of industries. An employer or executive recruiter was seated with between five and seven students at each of the dozens of tables in the Student Activities Center Ballroom A.
Kimberly Joy Dixon, director of Employer Engagement & Diversity Recruitment with the Career Center, kicked off the event by recognizing that two companies, INROADS and the T. Howard Foundation, who were here in 2009, the first year the event was held. All employers attending shared a “commitment to diversity both in the hiring process and in the workplace,” said Elizabeth Ann Moon, Career Center marketing and digital content specialist.
Following a video produced by Career Center Intern Maya Brown, Diversity and Inclusion Manager Janeen Johnson of PSEG LI gave the keynote, which took the form of a series of interactive exercises. Her topic was “Unconscious Bias in Hiring.” To be human is to be subject to bias, she said, which derives from positive associations with the familiar and negative associations with what is unfamiliar.
Where bias is unwelcome, however, is where it is used in determining who gets the job during the hiring process; decisions cannot be based on individual preferences or opinions but what is good for the company. “Raise your hand if you don’t have an opinion,” she demanded of the crowd.
“I proved my point,” she laughed, when a sea of hands shot up. “We all have a bias.” She went on to explain that the brain is hard-wired, out of survival instincts, to form a “them vs. us” dichotomy. A video illustrating variations of this flashed across the screen. It posed the questions: What do we think of those who “don’t attend church, vote for the other party, or don’t speak English?”
Johnson said, “We come from communities that teach us these things. The challenge comes when we are in a position of authority affecting others. We have to change the conversation so there is more equity. We need to understand we all have opinions so they don’t rule us.”
Following the keynote, employers switched tables while students stayed put, affording them another perspective. At one table, representatives from Northwell Health Care were followed by those from Stony Brook Medicine. Robert Varelo, a graduate student pursuing a Masters in health care informatics, asked Rhodora LaRochelle, project manager, Executive Search, Executive Talent Sourcing Specialist, how often she actually sees a CEO or CIO during working hours.
“Every Monday there is an orientation meeting of new employees, and our CEO talks about where we want to be [as a company] — so very often,” was LaRochelle’s reply.
Biology major Justin Marlow ‘22 said, “The networking event was excellent. I learned about the importance of selecting the appropriate internship, as to how it benefits me versus applying to companies because of popularity. And my big takeaway was not to let unconscious bias hinder you from making the best decisions in life.”
The Career Center partnered with student organizations to coordinate the event. This year that included the Latin American Student Organization, National Society of Black Engineers, Student African American Brotherhood, Student African American Sisterhood, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Delta Sigma Pi, and the MALIK Fraternity.
— Glenn Jochum