February is a time to reflect, recognize contributions and acknowledge the challenges Black people have faced throughout history. It presents the opportunity to support the Black community and also focus on sharing and teaching cultural acceptance, which can lead to a more inclusive and productive workplace.
Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market
African American workers regularly face higher unemployment rates than whites. According to statistics, they usually spend more time looking for jobs; a report on hiring bias showed that ethnic minorities have to complete 50% more applications on average to get invited for a job interview.
When compared with candidates in the majority, applicants with "Black-sounding" names receive 50% fewer callbacks than their white counterparts. Blacks get more job interview callbacks when they “whiten” their resumes, and companies are more likely to call minority applicants for interviews if they submit “whitened” (scrubbed of racial clues) resumes than candidates who reveal their race, even where the qualifications listed were identical. Twenty-five percent of Black candidates received callbacks from their whitened resumes, while only 10 percent got calls when they left ethnic details intact.
Overcoming Racial Bias in the Workplace
Bias and inequality still affect modern workplaces. A study published by Harvard Business Review showed that, although progress has been made in other areas, systematic racial discrimination in the labor market against Black people still continues.
How can this problem be addressed to ensure that Blacks and other people of color are treated with equality?
- Make Job Postings Bias-Free and Insist on a Diverse Candidate Pool
To have a racially diverse pool of candidates to choose from, make sure your jobs ads are not discriminatory. Avoid words that imply non-interest in candidates of certain race, color, age, religion, national origin or gender identity or expression. And whether you are hiring yourself or using a recruiter, make sure you choose from a diverse pool of candidates.
- Limit Referral Hiring
Hiring referrals from the social network of employees in a workplace where there’s little or no diversity only reinforces that lack of diversity. Find proactive ways of bringing diversity into the candidate pool. For example, Google partners with historically Black and Hispanic colleges to have a pipeline of people of color to be selected for employment. You can work with similar organizations to recruit in your local community.
- Define Company Culture with Diversity in Mind
The implicit bias that surrounds company culture leads to homogenous workplaces; in most cases, culture “fit” comes down to shared values, backgrounds and interests, which excludes many people outside that description. If you want diversity and inclusion to be essential to company culture, one must recognize different values and strengths.
- Promote Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee resource groups are employee-led communities at work where the participants share an identity. Having a space that allows employees to share knowledge with and support other employees like them is often directly tied to happiness and feelings of belonging at work. ERGs encourage open dialogues, promote inclusivity and support employees of color.
- Organizational Involvement in the Local Community
Organizations need to make sure that people of color are given more opportunities in the present and future through community programs.
For example, Apple unveiled new racial equity and justice projects which is part of its $100m program. As part of this program, Apple plans to launch the Propel Center, which is a first-of-its-kind global innovation and learning hub for historically Black colleges and universities. It will also launch as an Apple Developer Academy geared at helping Detroit-based students code and receive tech education. The program will also support venture capital funding for Black and Brown entrepreneurs.
When companies create programs that engage different cultures in their communities, they improve diversity and inclusion within the company over time.
Beyond celebrating Black History Month, it’s important to keep the conversation of racial equity in the workplace going year-round. This will not only improve the inclusion of Blacks and other people of color at work now, but it helps pave the path for future generations.
While Black history is certainly important, it’s crucial to place emphasis on Black futures, too.