by Beth Robinson
Originally published: July 25, 2017
I generally don’t like talking about race in any setting, but racial bias in the workplace is an especially fraught issue. Gender is a neater topic for bias because of the sheer numbers, and because all of the stereotypes don’t have legs. Women get more college degrees than men, and on average do better in school. Despite these factors, even gender bias is hard to pin down, even for women who experience it. But as the ultimate irony, men with children tend to do better than everyone else. There are more Fortune 500 CEOs named John than women. But intersectionality is real. And when one of the factors is race, that’s where things get tricky.
Race is not nearly as neat as gender, which is neater but still not clear cut enough for most. First, while I believe, mostly from anecdotal experiences and raw data, that most of the discrepancy we see in the workplace between where things should be and where they are is due to racial bias, because the largest minority groups in the country have less educational attainment, the sheer amount of factors to take into account make a discussion difficult. Add to it the historical disadvantages people of color faced (access to education, access to housing, access to employment, immigrant status, etc.), and the discussion gets really difficult. Generational wealth allows an individual to make different choices that equal different employment opportunity. Pushing back against stereotypes isn’t enough if the numbers and other factors make it easy to deny opportunity. But despite all of this, I believe the biggest impediment to anything meaningful moving the needle of diversity is the lack of honest discussion around the topic.