Are Employers Failing Black Workers? - The Black Perspective
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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. Professional occupations like medicine, law and finance show an underrepresentation of black workers. Education or qualifications are not the cause of this.  Instead, it is how employees are hired in the first place. So, looking at current practices, are employers failing black workers

It seems logical for employers to rely heavily on social networks and personal connections in order to fill available positions in a day of technological advancements and social networking. But organizations take an approach that has overwhelmingly been known to exclude blacks by leaning too heavily on informal links. 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. Organizations tend to rely on social connections in hiring ends up excluding black workers.

A fresh look at diversity?

The second way employers often fail black workers is through ineffective policies around diversity and inclusion. Many companies like Apple have shifted towards defining diversity loosely around ambiguous, overly broad goals such as “diversity of thought”, as broader support for affirmative action has slowed in certain sectors. White managers may see perceived benefits in this shift. 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.

It starts at the bottom

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,  hiring managers make decisions about what sort of workers seem to “fit” certain types of jobs. These perceptions are often linked to racial stereotypes. Organizational segregation occurs with black workers overrepresented in the positions that have little opportunity for growth or advancement. Additionally, a heightened risk that organizations will lose the black workers they do employ comes from the fact that these jobs are often the first to be considered for layoffs.

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