The Hiring Ideals: Equality and Equity In Olympia

A graphic representing equality versus equity by Interaction Institute for Social Change artist Angus Maguire

A graphic representing equality versus equity by Interaction Institute for Social Change artist Angus Maguire

Calysta Kanick, Journalist

The American Dream is to grow and prosper from any background, from any place. Your place in the world will only be dictated by your will to work and the abilities that you hold. The constitution freely gives equality, but what about equity? Can one person have someone else pay for a full ride to college and get a Master’s Degree? People have vast variants in culture and background. Can they even get to the same level with the same amount of struggle in the hiring world? Can two people who come from polar-opposite backgrounds, who are looked at by law, be equally the same to a possible employer? 

Just around the corner equity is brewing and becoming a highlighted part of the Olympia school system. One person who is pressing the idea is Jodi Boe, President of the OEA, or Olympia Education Association, that has presented the ideals of having “amounts of colored students and the environment of the area to be reflected into the staffing,” of schools, but due to the lack of Affirmative action; the placement of policy and practice into favoring people that had been previously discriminated against, the OEA is left to only encourage and hope for a larger pool of candidates from familiar backgrounds to the schools’ population and culture. Mrs. Boe continues with, “the big goal is to hire more people of color… I’m confident [about] that [with] Olympia High School. I think that Mr. Grant has already had this goal for a long time now.” Is Olympia High a beacon for equity? More likely than you think. 

The hiring process is a large one, yet the process holds promise with the ideas of equality and equity of candidates in mind, for the staffing of schools is an important one. The structure of Olympia High School comes from the teachers, principle, and staff hired, all of which is overseen by the Executive Director of Human Resources Scott Niemann. This is the same position that also oversees the entire Olympia School District for, as Niemann says, “including hiring and interviewing staff, retention of staff, employee relations, labor negotiations, administering pay, leave, and enforcing the District’s policies, procedures, and evaluation practices.” With a ratio of students to teachers of 1:22 and growing on the student’s side, each teaching position is a vital one. “Olympia School District’s application and hiring processes are critical to supporting diversity and inclusion… We all have unconscious biases…which can also impact hiring decisions,” says Mr. Niemann. “We address this challenge through training on unconscious bias and implementing systems that use objective criteria…. Removing the ability for someone to engage biases, whether conscious or unconscious, based on perceptions would be another step toward ensuring equality and equity in the hiring process.” 

Through the course of history, equality and equity have been cycled through picking and choosing at the unfairness of job hiring and example of which given by Mr. Niemann: “Before it became law in Washington state in 2019, our district removed the disclosure of prior salary history from its applications as a required field…. [this] was often used as a basis to set a new employee’s salary…. the salary levels of men were often higher than those of women, men’s salary offers could be higher than those of women for performing the same role resulting in wage disparity based on gender.” 

Another case of the hiring processes including more ideals of equity would be the DEI initiative, or also more widely as one of Governor Lnslees’s plans for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion initiative, but when asked about the initiative Scott Niemann replied that “our district has been working on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) long before Governor Inslee’s initiative,” and to this day the push for equality and equity in our local communities for our very own jobs.