Tuesday 23 January 2018

'How your surname can determine if you get a call for a job ' according to one professional network

The APNI executive committee
The APNI executive committee

Kathy Armstrong

African employees are often discriminated against in Ireland because of their name, a new network for professionals has claimed.

The African Professional Network of Ireland (APNI) aims to connect, gather and empower people of African origin living here.

APNI President Joseph Ekue Kinvi founded the ground in the summer of 2016 with a group of his friends and it has since blossomed into a fast-growing initiative that boasts over 2,000 online members, who he estimates have origins in up to 15 different African countries.

Joseph, who is known as Joey to his friends, said: "It was just over a year ago when myself and seven other friends, who are all African or of African descent, decided that we wanted to join a network.

"There wasn't really anywhere that we could meet other like-minded people, with the same passion and intent and just support each other.

"We held our first event last November and arranged speakers to chat about the power of networking.

APNI President Joseph Ekue Kinvi
APNI President Joseph Ekue Kinvi

"I think we were being a bit pessimistic because we were hoping for 50 people to show up but the word got around and those 50 tickets were quickly gone and in the end around 130 people showed up, that's when we realised we were onto something."

Joey, who moved from Togo, West Africa to Clondalkin, Dublin when he was 15, said that their members have claimed they are discriminated against by potential employers.

Qualified chartered accountant Joey said: "It is an issue that people do come across employers or recruiters who are reluctant to  give you an interview and you'd feel that might be because our names might not be as straightforward or easy to Irish employers.

"We have heard that quite a lot but the way we address that is by trying to encourage our members to be the best they can be.

"We work with companies to increase their awareness that the name shouldn't be a thing where you don't call someone back.

"It shouldn't be something that an employer can discriminate against intentionally or unintentionally - especially if your CV is amazing."

He continued to say: "My first name is Ekue and Joey is actually my middle name and I have had a lot of encounters where people won't even say your name because they're so afraid of being uncomfortable.

"It's just a matter of trying and asking if they're saying it right, I don't personally consider it discrimination but we want to highlight that it's okay to ask how to pronounce it.

"People can also be quite ignorant when it comes down to racial slurs, it's just about highlighting this.

"I've been here for 12 years and the change has been amazing so I think it's just a matter of time until it's not an issue any more."

Shane O'Curry, director of ENAR Ireland, said the group does come across complaints of this nature via their online racism reporting tool iReport.

"We do get a lot of reports through to iReport feel they didn't get called to interview because they didn't have an Irish sounding names, and this is especially case for people with African sounding names," he said.

"In individual cases hard to tell but if you look at CSO data it's very clear that people of African descent are grossly under represented in Irish labour market and jobs they do have are menial," he said.

"There is structural evidence of discrimination so it would suggest people's suspicions are right."

Mr O'Curray reminded businesses that it is illegal top discriminate on grounds of race.

"Obviously discrimination is illegal under the Equality Act and more than that under human rights legislation there is a positive duty on all public sector employers and large private sector employers to demonstrate they are doing everything to mitigate against discrimination in their recruitment and employment practices," he said.

"What we would like to see beyond that is a national action plan against racism where this culture of disregarding someone's CV is not acceptable and that is understood by everyone."

However, Joey (28) stresses that APNI want to focus on the positive and are firm believers that if you work hard, network and push yourself then you cannot be held back.

He said: "For our second event we found people of African origin who have done really well for themselves in the workplace.

"We had senior managers from Google and Facebook, a director from a pharmaceutical company and an Irish rugby player, we asked them to share their experiences with our members to show it was all through hard work, dedication and perseverence.

"We wanted to show that regardless of your name or your race, there are opportunities if you work hard.

"We don't spend a lot of time on the discrimination aspect, we want to empower our members and help them to build relationships with employers."

The APNI's next event is entitled "Invest In You" and will be held at Citi in Dublin on Wednesday at 6.30pm.

For more information please visit about the APNI please visit here.

To learn more about or to get tickets to the APNI's "Invest In You" event please visit here.

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