You’re Perfect, We Can’t Hire You
A brief interview with SRCCON:WORK speaker Disha Raychaudhuri
SRCCON:WORK is coming up fast. In the run-up to the event, we’re publishing short interviews with the nine people selected to give talks to frame the participatory sections at the heart of the conference. Here’s our Q&A with Disha Raychaudhuri, who will speak about “what it’s like to look for a job as a young journalist from a marginalized community, someone with data skills in an industry that says it sees the importance of diversity.”
Disha Raychaudhuri on the Shallowness of Newsroom Diversity Commitments
Source: Hi Disha! Would you introduce yourself to our readers, please?
I’m Disha, a reporter on the data and investigations team at NJ Advance Media, covering what is slowly coming to be known (unofficially) in our newsroom as the “morbid curiosity” beat. In other words, most of my stories are about death and destruction and violence and other grim things. I was in journalism grad school right before this—I went to University of Southern California in sunny Los Angeles, and I miss everything about that place every day. Prior to moving to the US, I worked as a journalist in India and Bangladesh.
As for the upcoming talk, a former professor initially asked me if I’d be interested in doing it. A couple of months ago, when I was at the tail-end of grad school, I was looking for jobs in data journalism and was getting frustrated at the number of people who told me “you’re perfect, but we can’t hire you.” I was ranting about it with my professor when he decided to send out an email to the NICAR-L listserv asking if people would stop talking about having jobs for women of color and start walking the talk, especially when they could identify people who they said met their requirements. That opened up a conversation about hiring practices in the industry and a lot of people reached out with all kinds of comments, and some with potential hiring opportunities. It eventually led to the job I have now (and am very happy at).
Source: Can you break down one thing that hiring folks get wrong when they recruit and interview while (nominally) attempting to hire more people from underrepresented communities?
I feel people don’t think about how they talk when they’re trying to hire someone from underrepresented communities. It ranges from “oh I’m not even going to try to pronounce that” when they encounter an unfamiliar name, to “oh your English is very good for an [insert nationality] (in my case, Indian).” Add to that the numerous stereotypes that the interviewees are expected to find funny because they’re meant to be ice-breakers.
It may sound very simple, but how you treat someone during the interview process says a lot about how they might be treated later on if they do end up landing and accepting the job. Recruiting is not the only way to improve diversity; being able to retain them is equally important. So if we’re not thinking about how we interact with people in our daily conversations, we won’t be making much progress.
Source: What do you wish you could dig into in your talk, but won’t have the time to discuss?
I wish I could really go deeper into the problem, in the sense that we should concentrate on improving diversity not only in the workforce but also in places from where these people are hired, I.E., most j-schools. The arguments are really the same—it helps to have diversity because it leads to better conversations, better comprehension of issues that a particular set of people might have no experience with—but they are just as applicable for admission procedures. Diversity not just to fill the quota, but to create better spaces and better academic experiences. And diversity not just in terms of race, but also class, gender, and nationality.
Disha Raychaudhuri is a data reporter at NJ Advance Media and is a recent transplant from LA. She is obviously interested in all kinds of nerdy data things, especially numbers on criminal justice issues and the deathcare industry, but is also always on the lookout for good horror movie and dessert recommendations (yes, they go together).