Hiring without Bias: Why We Need to Leave “Vibes” Behind

Hiring without Bias: Why We Need to Leave “Vibes” Behind

As a step towards increasing diversity in your staff, and promoting anti-racism at your camp, have you looked at bias in your hiring processes?
First, we have to acknowledge that everyone has biases. It's part of being human. If you want to learn more about implicit biases (bias that we are unaware of consciously), check out Project Implicit. They have the most comprehensive definitions and tests out there. The tests can be a great way to learn about your own implicit biases. They aren’t going to disappear, but knowing what they are is necessary to make sure we account for them when hiring staff. 


When bias shows up in hiring, we wind up hiring people who are like us. We like people who are like us, and so they make it through our systems more easily. But when we only hire people like us, we deprive campers of having staff who are like them. More diversity in our staff leads to more creative problem solving, a larger range of talents, and avoids legal and ethical claims of discrimination.

With a more diverse staff, all campers are more likely to see themselves reflected in the staff. They learn to appreciate and respect uniqueness, which can reduce bullying and discrimination among their peers, and they can form positive relationships with peers from diverse backgrounds. 

Fair hiring practices also make for happier staff. When employees perceive that the hiring and promotion process is fair, they are more likely to be engaged and satisfied in their roles. This, in turn, makes your camp a more positive place to work for those employees. Fair and equitable hiring processes also increase the quality of your staff by making sure the people who are hired are the best and most qualified for the role, regardless of factors that may have prevented their hire in a biased system. 

Removing bias isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it isn’t impossible either. The first step is acknowledging that it exists and making the commitment to change. The process involves changing personal habits as well as institutional practices. I’ll be presenting some ways to improve your processes at ACA National in February in New Orleans. I hope you’ll join me there. If you can’t, stay tuned, and I’ll share more here soon. 

As an attendant at the Women in Camp Summit in December said, “I wasn't planning on attending your workshop because I thought our hiring practices were set, [but we have] LOTS of work to do.” We all have lots of work to do in improving anti-bias and anti-racism at camp, myself included, but we can make continuous steps towards justice for all.

See Leilani present at ACA Nationals on Thursday during the Group 6 Block! Want more recommendations? Check out our ACA Nationals Recommended Tracks

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Leilani Nussman


Summer Camp and Extended Learning Director, NORTHWEST SCHOOL

Leilani can be reached at lnussman@gmail.com.

“I am a mixed-race Kanaka maoli (Hawai’i) and white summer camp director. I use she/her pronouns. I live on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish people, past and present. I speak for myself and from my own lived experience. I still have work to do.”

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