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The Career Coach: Discrimination

The Career Coach takes time to look at sexism, racism and homophobia (and all the other phobias) in the 3D animation industry.

A month of springtime and birth, May is a perfect time for honoring mothers with Mothers Day. My mother taught me many things when I was a kid and continues to guide me today. A non-judgmental, open-minded person, my mother welcomes strangers into her life. A plaque near the front door of my childhood home summed up what my mother taught us: This house welcomes you no matter what race, religion, or national origin you are. My mother lives what she believes. She married a person from a different religion and a different country.

All are welcome here is the policy I grew up with. It should be the policy of every employer. Unfortunately, sometimes it isnt.

Recently someone wrote to me: Hey Career Coach, how about an article on sexism, racism and homophobia (and all the other phobias) in the 3D animation industry.

Because you cant change your race and its a big hassle to change your sex or sexual orientation, we have laws in the United States against discrimination.

Discrimination is illegal in the U.S.

In the U.S. Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In the United States, federal law covers employers with 15 or more employees. State laws cover employers with fewer than 15 employees.

When your reel is reviewed, unless a prospective employer knows you, he wont know your race, age or what your sexual orientation is. And frankly, most companies dont care. Companies really care about the work they see on your demo reel and if it is good enough to call you in for an interview. If you are a producer, they care about what projects youve worked on as demonstrated by your résumé.

Discrimination may not be the reason you dont get the job. It could be that someone elses reel is better, another applicant might have more experience or skill, the supervisor has worked with another applicant before and knows that she can deliver, or the visual effects producer has to hire her brother-in-law. Because of these factors, you may not be able to prove discrimination occurred.

Be sure that you dont have a bias yourself. Perhaps that remark was innocent and you are reading more into it because you are oversensitive. Also be sure you are not looking for someone else to blame for any shortcomings you might have.

But if discrimination or an unhealthy work situation does exist, and you have documentation of when it occurs, and you have taken steps to make your employer aware of the situation and he has done nothing about it, you may decide to take the information to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They will help you decide on the appropriate action and can help file a lawsuit if one is warranted.

The Next Move is Yours

If you dont want to hassle with a lawsuit, which can be time consuming and emotionally demanding, your next step is to get your marketing materials ready and start searching for a new job.

Life is too short to be miserable. There are plenty of companies who are thrilled to find experienced and talented people. Meet with potential employers during any time off weekends, after work, or during lunch or before work. Be sure not to denigrate your current employer during the interview. Youll soon find an employer who values the skills you offer.

Protect Your Reputation

Decide how soon you can leave your current employer without leaving him in a lurch. Finish any project if the delivery date is within a two-month time frame.

As soon as you land a new job and get a written offer letter, let your current employer know your end date and ask for a written letter of reference or recommendation. If your current employer conducts an exit interview with you, give honest feedback about the discrimination problem. If the boss is unaware of the problem, youll be doing him a favor.

Discrimination is not only illegal, discrimination is stupid and bad for business.

When an employer limits the kinds of people he hires, he denies himself the range of ideas, creativity and innovation that come from a diverse group. A Wall Street Journal article (April 19, 2005) describes how PepsiCo benefits from diversity in its work force by, retaining diverse workers and turning their varied perspectives into a competitive edge over consumer-product rivals, particularly in product innovation and marketing. In 2003, $250 million of Pepsis revenue growth was from new products inspired by diversity efforts. PepsiCos chairman/ceo Steve Reinemund says, Companies that figure out the diversity challenge first will clearly have a competitive advantage.

Bigotry is not only a sign of weakness, it also weakens the company. When you limit the kinds of people youre willing to hire, you limit the available talent pool you draw from. Discrimination limits the productivity of your company and prospects for growth and survival.

If my mother were writing this column, shed advise to start searching for a company where all employees are treated with respect. There are employers who value the differences in their employees and who recognize that their biggest asset is their people. There are many companies who do fabulous work and who welcome everyone who has the experience and skills they need. Find a company that values your contributions, and youll feel right at home, just like everyone who visits my moms house.

For more information on your rights and remedies when dealing with discrimination or harassment see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions web site or call the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 800 669-3362.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter/hiring strategist and career coach. Her most recent recruiting clients include Paramounts feature film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Toybox, a Canadian visual effects company. She speaks regularly on career issues at colleges and universities.