Americans of Color Don’t Feel Welcome at Work

Americans of Color Don’t Feel Welcome at Work

A new survey of young adults finds that nearly half of black Americans ages 18-30 have experienced racial discrimination at work or in the job market, while one third of young women of all races have been discriminated against on the basis of their gender. The Associated Press has the story:

This information comes from a GenForward survey of young adults conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The first-of-its-kind poll pays special attention to the voices of young adults of color, highlighting how race and ethnicity shape the opinions of the country’s most diverse generation. The poll, taken in September, showed that 48 percent of blacks age 18-30 say they’ve experienced discrimination while looking for a job or at work, which was higher than all other races and ethnicities. About one-third of Asian-Americans and Latinos also said they experienced discrimination at work or while looking for a job. Just 10 percent of whites say they experienced employment-related racism. …

On top of facing discrimination, young blacks are more likely to think their race has made it more difficult to get ahead economically. Fifty-four percent say being black makes it harder, the highest among those polled. Thirty-nine percent of Asian-Americans and 34 percent of Latinos say their race or ethnicity has made life harder. Young whites are the only group more likely to say their race has made life easier at 31 percent. But more than half, or 53 percent, say their race has made no difference. Still, most young people across racial and ethnic lines say whites in general have at least some advantage getting ahead economically.

Indeed, a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute found that the pay gap between black and white Americans is worse today than it was in 1979, with black men earning 22 percent less and black women earning over 34 percent less than the average white man.

What do workplace discrimination and exclusion look like for Americans of color? Another new study of Latino Americans looks at what it feels like to work in an environment where you can’t be yourself. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, and the study’s coauthors Noni Allwood and Laura Sherbin present their findings at the Harvard Business Review:

We found the vast majority of Latinos (76%) repress parts of their personas at work. They modify their appearance, body language, and communication style — all components of executive presence (EP), that intangible element that defines leadership material.

“You’re always moderating yourself,” agrees a Latina executive, who feels Latinas “are always tagged with the emotional thing. They’re always told, ‘Calm down. You’ve got to be more cool. Be careful with your voice, be careful with your hands.’” Hispanic men echo her observations. One ruefully told of moving from a Hispanic-dominated company, where he could gesture eloquently and speak passionately, to a Caucasian workplace where he had to “scale back” his expressiveness. Another Latina executive recalls the countless times that she’s been asked to anglicize her name. “My father, who died when I was young, chose my name,” she says. “It’s one of the few links I have to him, and I’m not willing to let it go. I am twisting myself into a pretzel to adapt to my company culture, and they can’t budge an inch to call me by my given name?”

More than half (53%) of Latinas and 44% of Latinos say that EP at their company is defined by conforming to traditionally white, male standards. Furthermore, 43% of Latinas and 33% of Latinos say they need to compromise their authenticity to adhere to the EP standards at their company.