Are Employers Failing Black Workers? - The Black Perspective
Don't Miss

Are Employers Failing Black Workers?

By on September 16, 2019

Many organizations and businesses boast of their commitment to hiring workers of color. But change with regard to diversity in the workplace has happened slowly, if at all. Black workers are underrepresented in professional occupations like medicine, law and finance. This not due to lack of education or qualifications, but instead with how employees are hired in the first place.

In a day of technological advancements and social networking, it would seem logical for employers to rely heavily on social networks and personal connections in order to fill available positions. But by leaning too heavily on informal links, organizations are taking an approach that has overwhelmingly been known to exclude blacks. While it might seem simpler and more efficient to rely on personal connections, this limits black applicants’ access to many organizations because much of the people who already work at them are white – and white people tend to have networks full of other white people. Even today, neighborhoods, peer groups, and schools remain largely racially homogenous. The result is that the tendency in organizations to rely on social connections in hiring ends up excluding black workers.

The second way employers often fail black workers is through ineffective policies around diversity and inclusion. As broader support for affirmative action has slowed in certain sectors, many companies like Apple have shifted towards defining diversity loosely around ambiguous, overly broad goals such as “diversity of thought”. There may be perceived benefits in this shift for white managers. While this loosely establishes an inclusion policy for all, it also gives them permission to avoid conversations about race. This approach does little to address the specific issues that affect black workers. Companies that haven’t clearly articulated how they will support workers of color specifically are unlikely to be able to respond when issues of racial discrimination or harassment arise.

Finally, organizations fail black workers by channeling them into the least secure and least prestigious jobs, like public sector or human resources roles). In many cases, this happens because hiring managers make decisions about what sort of workers seem to “fit” certain types of jobs, and these perceptions are often linked to racial stereotypes. The result is internal organizational segregation with black workers overrepresented in the positions that have little opportunity for growth or advancement. Additionally, these are often the jobs that are often the first to be considered for layoffs, creating a heightened risk that organizations will lose the black workers they do employ.

Organizations can do better. The good news is that research offers insights into some of the most effective ways forward. Employers need to reconsider how best to draw from black workers who bring different experiences, backgrounds, and strengths. It’s not enough to tiptoe around the fact that racial disparities persist. Head-on efforts to resolve these issues are necessary. There’s much work to do in this arena, but research shows us that it is possible

any organizations and businesses boast of their commitment to hiring workers of color. But change with regard to diversity in the workplace has happened slowly, if at all. Black workers are underrepresented in professional occupations like medicine, law and finance. This not due to lack of education or qualifications, but instead with how employees are hired in the first place.

In a day of technological advancements and social networking, it would seem logical for employers to rely heavily on social networks and personal connections in order to fill available positions. But by leaning too heavily on informal links, organizations are taking an approach that has overwhelmingly been known to exclude blacks. While it might seem simpler and more efficient to rely on personal connections, this limits black applicants’ access to many organizations because much of the people who already work at them are white – and white people tend to have networks full of other white people. Even today, neighborhoods, peer groups, and schools remain largely racially homogenous. The result is that the tendency in organizations to rely on social connections in hiring ends up excluding black workers.

The second way employers often fail black workers is through ineffective policies around diversity and inclusion. As broader support for affirmative action has slowed in certain sectors, many companies like Apple have shifted towards defining diversity loosely around ambiguous, overly broad goals such as “diversity of thought”. There may be perceived benefits in this shift for white managers. While this loosely establishes an inclusion policy for all, it also gives them permission to avoid conversations about race. This approach does little to address the specific issues that affect black workers. Companies that haven’t clearly articulated how they will support workers of color specifically are unlikely to be able to respond when issues of racial discrimination or harassment arise.

Finally, organizations fail black workers by channeling them into the least secure and least prestigious jobs, like public sector or human resources roles). In many cases, this happens because hiring managers make decisions about what sort of workers seem to “fit” certain types of jobs, and these perceptions are often linked to racial stereotypes. The result is internal organizational segregation with black workers overrepresented in the positions that have little opportunity for growth or advancement. Additionally, these are often the jobs that are often the first to be considered for layoffs, creating a heightened risk that organizations will lose the black workers they do employ.

Organizations can do better. The good news is that research offers insights into some of the most effective ways forward. Employers need to reconsider how best to draw from black workers who bring different experiences, backgrounds, and strengths. It’s not enough to tiptoe around the fact that racial disparities persist. Head-on efforts to resolve these issues are necessary. There’s much work to do in this arena, but research shows us that it is possible.

About Michyle Stern