Categorizing People

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘discrimination’? It’s usually related to race, religion, or gender. I’m a woman, a Christian, and of Chinese-descendant living in a Muslim-dominated South East Asian country, Indonesia. However, I have never felt discriminated enough for me to rant about it. A little here and there, but nothing affected me much.

That is, until, I graduated and know that there is indeed another type of discrimination.

I used to work for a multi-national IT consultant company. Great, right? In technology, the company divides their employee in three streams:

  1. For those who graduated from state university and university abroad
  2. For those who graduated from private university
  3. For those who can get in with GPA lower than their standard of certain number

Please note that in Indonesia, often state universities is considered better and more prestigious than private universities.

I was graduated from a private university in Indonesia, with high enough GPA to get into the second stream. When I got in, I was told that the reason why the first stream existed was because they need to sell these people and their background to clients. That make sense to me, so sure I just nod in agreement.

What I didn’t know is that in the field, sometimes people from the second and third stream would also be facing the clients, literally have the same job desk with the first stream. And also, the first stream would have a more advanced start in level, meaning their salary started bigger too. And that the third stream would have a flat travel allowance while us in the first and second stream have dynamic travel allowance.

What I also didn’t know is that it is easy for you to ‘step down’ the stream, but super hard to ‘step up’ the stream. The almighty first stream is almost ‘untouchable’. Once, I was attending a small event by the company, aiming for top students in top universities in the country to later join the company. So there were explanation on what the company would be like, along with the streams available. And then one of the manager that were explaining said that the reason the second stream existed was because there are people whose passion is to do the job desk in the second stream.

Sure there are people whose passion is the job in the second stream. But as far as I know, in the beginning we weren’t given the choice to be in the second stream. We were put in, boxed in, and didn’t even given the chance to ‘step up’.

Never have I ever felt so discriminated in my life.


Pronunciation: /dɪˌskrɪmɪˈneɪʃ(ə)n/

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people

‘Categorizing’ people is bad enough. But categorizing them, giving each category different treatment, without giving them any chance to break out of that category is harsh.

When researching for this post, I stumbled upon an article from Donald Miller in Storyline. He said:

“Categorizing people, in the worst instances, devalues them, and in the best instances is creates a false understanding.”

Being categorized without a chance of stepping ‘up’ make me feel a lot of things. But two things stood out the most:

  1. That I’m not good enough
    Because no matter how hard I work, I know that even if I get better, I would just be better in my category, which is still looked upon as the ‘second’.
  2. Lazy to reach more than what my category was expected to be
    Sure I would still work hard to be better in my category. But why would I work hard doing the same job desk when they and I get different treatment?

So then I realize that this thinking is not healthy. This factor in one of many reasons I left the company. And then I also realize that people who are being categorized is not always the one on the lose side.

I figure by ‘categorizing’ people, we would also lose some things. We could be losing out on people being better than what the category specifies. Or worse, these people that might be good at what they do decided to just leave and find a place elsewhere where they could be more appreciated.

So if you are in the position of being categorized, see again if being categorized devalues you, cages you that you can’t be a better person. We all deserves to have the chance to be a better person.