Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Look into my eyes

When Ethiopian-Israeli kids, who have been brought up in a traditional environment, get to the Army Induction Center (“Bakum”) as they prepare to be drafted …. something really interesting happens.

Ethiopians generally won’t look authority-figures in the eyes, out of respect. 

But if that happens to you when you’re facing an Inductions Officer (קצין מיון) then you’re in big trouble … because the first thing the officer will think is, 'this recruit has no self-confidence.'
Suddenly, in an instant, your hopes of going to officer course, of being an instructor … of getting any decent military profession are gone. 
And if that chance is gone, you stand much less of a chance of getting ahead in civilian life too.

So one of the cultural challenges we deal with in programs like Springboard – an amazing program I saw recently in Israel, which prepares young Ethiopian-Israelis for army service and successful integration into post-army civilian life – is the soft skills, the cultural skills. 
It’s not just about battling inequality and lack of education (even though these are critical). 

It’s also about changing hearts and minds. 

And not just the hearts and minds of the new recruits and their parents. It’s also about changing the attitudes and perspectives of veteran Israelis: to understand the cultural norms and expectations of everyone they speak with. 
To be respectful. 
To be kind.

My colleagues at our micro-economic research institute, Myers-JDC-Brookdale, have done some terrific work examining these kinds of issues. They've just put out a fascinating research paper on culturally-fair employment screening methods and their implications. You can read the summary here, and the executive summary here. And if your Hebrew is really good, you can read the whole thing here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment