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I keep getting s from companies saying they stand in solidarity with black Americans and oppose racism. Super, glad to hear it.
Who succeeds in your organization? Who gets promoted?
Our surveys of lawyers, architects and engineers confirm that the experience of black professional women diverges dramatically from that of white men. Perhaps not surprisingly, our research shows that black professional women are more likely than any other group of women to say they are treated unfairly with respect to hiring, asments and promotions. Office politics also are more complicated for black women.
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Organizations accept a narrower range of behavior from black women, who are the group most likely to report pushback for showing anger. Black women need walk a tightrope, balancing assertiveness with deference, much more so than white women, who themselves face a tightrope compared to white men.
The workplace is also lonelier for black women. Across our samples, black women were by far the least likely group of women to feel that they have a lot in common with other women.
Our interviews of science professors also found that black women reported, in a tone of bleak isolation, a level of disrespect I have never heard again in my hundreds of interviews with professional women. Businesses have failed to make progress on diversity because they have never bothered to pick up the tools they use to solve any problem they actually care about.
If a business had a problem with sales, the response would not be to hire someone to lead the company in deep conversations about how fervently the company cares about sales and put on programming for National Celebrate Sales Month. The business would gather the evidence, establish metrics, and keep trying different things until it achieved its sales goals.
That same data-driven, experimental approach can be used to fight racism and sexism in the workplace. We have 40 years of social science data documenting the distinct patterns of bias that affect women and people of color. We can use this data to pinpoint where bias plays out in business contexts and then interrupt that bias with new, evidence-based processes. Instead, they interrupt bias by changing business systems and routines.
For example, a company facing diversity challenges in hiring should be keeping metrics: tracking the demography of the initial applicants, monitoring which s get to the top of the pile, logging who gets interviewed and who gets offers. Knowing exactly where underrepresented candidates are getting pushed out of the process matters because the fix for diversifying the initial pool is very different from the fix when only well-connected white men are getting high marks for interviews.
For the former, the key is reaching out to a broader range of networks — for example, to career centers at historically black colleges and universities. For the latter, the key is a combination of structured interview questions, grading rubrics, and making interviewers aware of the patterns of bias that crop up in job interviews.
Changing these business systems is how we turn lofty CEO statements into real progress. During the time it took me to write this, I got yet another from a white-led organization telling me I need to feel uncomfortable about racism.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. To contact the author of this story: Joan C. Williams at williams uchastings.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic bloomberg. This opinion piece was originally published on Bloomberg.
I'm Looking for Clear Search Search. Public statements of solidarity are good. A level playing field for employees is better.