IBM has been forced to apologise after a jobseeker found “antiquated” and offensive language on its careers site.
New York-based UX designer Richard Park was applying for a role at IBM recently when he was directed to two drop-down menus which required applicants to select their “ethnic group”.
Options included “indigenous”, “caucasian”, “black”, “yellow”, “mulatto” or “not a Brazil national”.
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The second drop-down menu included the options “African,” “Indian”, “coloured”, “white”, “none of these” and “not a South African national”.
A shocked Mr Park recorded the options and posted the footage on Twitter with the caption: “@ibm applied for a job on your career site. Aren’t these ethnic group labels a little antiquated? To make matters worse, I couldn’t submit my application w/o selecting an option. I ended up selecting ‘Yellow’ and ‘Coloured’.”
.@ibm applied for a job on your career site. Aren’t these ethnic group labels a little antiquated? To make matters worse, I couldn’t submit my application w/o selecting an option. I ended up selecting “Yellow” and “Coloured.” @verge @NextShark @angryasianman #racism #ux #design pic.twitter.com/4YTS0uTssB
— Rich (@RichParkNYC) February 18, 2019
The term “mulatto” was historically used to describe someone who had one white and one black parent, however, it is widely considered to be derogatory and outdated.
IBM responded to Mr Park’s tweet, posting: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The insensitive language, which resulted from an auto translation, has been removed from the Brazil recruiting website.”
The company later clarified further, posting: “some of our recruiting websites have been translated incorrectly, and we apologise. We have removed the insensitive language and are reviewing all sites to ensure there are no further issues.”
However, in a subsequent tweet Mr Park clarified he was based in the US and had been applying for a US-based role in New York.
“In addition, nothing in the application process indicated that it was a Brazilian recruiting site,” he posted.
Mr Park’s video sparked an outpouring of anger from fellow Twitter users.
“Unbelievable! Are they screening people base on the colour of their skin and not the actual credentials???” Anna Q wrote, while Rodolfo Yoshii added: “Holy Sh*t!!! How can @ibm do such a stupid thing. I really think that the web form was created by an IBM intern from a country where cultural education is still from the early 1900s. Still what a lack of UX testing.”
NonNeutralBystander said “somebody needs to be fired” over the blunder, adding it was “racist as f*** too”, while Thomas Le Bas added: “I don’t think any context saves anyone from using the notion of colour as a way to identify ethnicity.”
In a statement sent to Business Insider, IBM’s vice president of external relations Edward Barbini apologised and said the inappropriate questions had been removed.
“Our recruiting websites temporarily and inappropriately solicited information concerning job applicant ethnicity,” Mr Barbini said.
“Those questions were removed immediately when we became aware of the issue and we apologise. IBM hiring is based on skills and qualifications. We do not use race or ethnicity in the hiring process and any responses we received to those questions will be deleted.
“IBM has long rejected all forms of racial discrimination and we are taking appropriate steps to make sure this does not happen again.”
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