According to a recent study by the Perception Institute, one in five black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work, and though all women worry about about how their hair is perceived, black women are much more likely to feel anxiety over the issue than white women are. That anxiety is apparently warranted: the Perception Institute also found that, irrespective of race, the majority of the more than 4,000 people who participated in the study demonstrated an implicit bias against black women’s (naturally) textured hair, rating it less professional than smoother hair. As the study concludes, be it overall perceptions of professionalism, first impressions during an interview, or general ideas about health and beauty, “attitudes toward black women’s hair can shape opportunities in these contexts, and innumerable others.”
Bias against black women’s textured hair can play out in a number of ways in the workplace, from everyday cultural slights and comments regarding these women’s hairstyles, to more concrete challenges such as misguided hiring decisions. And while banter in the break room surrounding a black colleague’s new hairstyle may seem like an otherwise innocuous conversation point, it may actually contribute to, or be a symptom of, a workplace culture in which black women are professionally judged over their hair.
It has been a rough year for Uber on the talent front, where it has faced a reckoning over an organizational culture that stands accused of enabling rampant gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The scandal led to the firing of 20 employees, including executives, as well as the ouster of founder Travis Kalanick from the CEO position in June, while former US Attorney General Eric Holder was hired to lead an independent investigation into what went wrong. It also sent Uber directors scrambling to explain to investors and the public what they were doing to detoxify the ridesharing company’s culture, such as hiring Harvard business professor Frances Frei as senior vice president of leadership and strategy.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia who took up the helm of Uber in August, has moved quickly to assure employees and investors that he is taking the culture clean-up seriously and that the kind of behavior that was allowed to slide under Kalanick would no longer be tolerated. In a LinkedIn blog post published on Tuesday, Khosrowshahi laid out a new set of cultural norms for Uber that includes a sharper focus on inclusion and ethics:
We celebrate differences. We stand apart from the average. We ensure people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome. We encourage different opinions and approaches to be heard, and then we come together and build.
We do the right thing. Period.
In keeping with best practices for culture change management (including what we have found in our own research at CEB, now Gartner), Khosrowshahi said this new set of values was developed through a bottom-up process that engaged employees directly in making decisions about how the culture needs to change:
Earlier this year, the UK’s gender pay gap reporting mandate came into force, obligating organizations with 250 staff or more to publish gender discrepancies in their payrolls by April 4 of next year. Some employers oppose the mandate because they say it will paint an unfair picture of their pay practices by not differentiating between group-to-group and role-to-role gaps, or between legitimate and discriminatory pay differentiation.
Few employers have reported their pay gaps yet, but already, the few revelations that have come out have led to headlines like “Financial services suffer from widest gender pay gap in UK“—not good news, but also, not exactly news. As such, British employers are concerned about the impact of this reporting on their reputations, particularly among those that do have large gender pay gaps. Personnel Today’s Adam McCulloch flags a new survey of senior professionals finding that 84 percent believed the requirements would damage organizations’ reputations and that 73 percent thought companies with large gaps would have more trouble recruiting:
The new research from public relations firm Golin also found that just over three-quarters (76%) of professionals agreed that organisations should be named and shamed for their gender pay gap and 77% felt that companies were likely to lose staff once the pay data was published. More than a third of respondents said that the issue was more toxic for companies than corporate tax avoidance and, perhaps most seriously, 39% of female respondents said they would consider leaving if their company reported a significant pay gap.
These findings are no surprise to us at CEB (now Gartner), as our latest research into pay equity finds that perceptions of pay inequality can be just as harmful to employee retention as pay inequities in fact—and the perceptions tend to be even worse than the facts.
According to our research at CEB, now Gartner, even though 85 percent of CEOs believe it enhances business performance, only one third of employees are satisfied with diversity and inclusion at their organization, while nearly 60 percent of heads of HR believe their D&I strategy is ineffective. Many organizations are focused on making their cultures more inclusive and ensuring compliance with evolving legislation, but aren’t always seeing the results they had hoped for.
At our recent summit for HR executives in Johannesburg, more than 100 HR executives from 45 organizations had the opportunity to share ideas and hear from a panel of their peers how progressive organizations in South Africa are addressing the challenge of enhancing and evolving their D&I strategies.
1) Bring the Outside In
When defining what successful D&I looks like, our participants highlighted ideas and innovations, deliberate dialogue and co-creation, and thinking about diversity in all aspects: clients, products, and employees alike. The more integrated these are, the greater the impact. Many companies find that hiring employees from more diverse backgrounds gives them a way to engage new markets through new products, ideas or services. By bringing new perspectives into the organization, companies were better able to address the needs of both employees and customers.
2) Tackle Systems and Processes
Organizations that have made progress on D&I stressed the value of accelerated development programs that have yielded results in nurturing internal talent, including C-suite executives developed from within the organization; as well as the need to make hard decisions such as suspending the promotion process because the pool of candidates was not diverse enough.
Even though 91 percent of S&P global companies offer D&I training with 46 percent of organizations conducting their D&I training to mitigate unconscious bias, but as one participant shared, “It’s hard to catch bias in the moment.” One way to mitigate bias is by creating accountability for decision makers. For example, rather than expecting a hiring manager to make unbiased decisions independently, organizations are using a diverse panel when interviewing candidates. (To learn more, CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can read our research on Driving Diversity Through Talent Acquisition.)
As millennials grew into the largest generation in the workforce over the past few years, we’ve been treated to a deluge of breathless media coverage about how uniquely difficult they were to deal with and how they were ruining everything. From chain restaurants to jewelry, along with job loyalty and the 9-to-5 workday, the list of American institutions millennials are charged with killing is nearly endless. Meanwhile, business leaders have wrestled with the seemingly vast complexities their entry to the workforce has created. Most of the work-related challenges have proven to be more myth than truth, as our research at CEB (now Gartner) has found, along with other investigations by the Economist and the Pew Research Center, but the conventional wisdom endures that millennials are entitled, need constant hand-holding, and are therefore unusually hard to manage.
It appears the newest generation entering the workforce, Generation Z, is being similarly prejudged, according a recent survey of managers profiled by SHRM’s Dana Wilkie. In it, 36 percent of managers said they believed that Generation Z would be more difficult to manage than previous generations, while 29 percent believe it will be more difficult to train employees from Generation Z, 26 percent say it will be more difficult to communicate with the newest generation, and even 20 percent of millennial managers believe Generation Z represents a threat to company culture.
“There is a tendency and expectation of instantaneous gratification,” said Jeff Corbin, CEO of APPrise Mobile, the employee communications company which conducted the study. “They want the answers now. They are all about tweets and short responses. As a result, many Gen Zers are going to be too quick to respond rather than deliberate and thoughtful. … [T]he concept of professionalism, formality and quality in communications may be a foreign one to many in Gen Z, which could be problematic to older generations.”
For the first time since it began keeping records in 2006, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report registered a decline this year in gender parity around the globe. The report, which uses data from the WEF’s own surveys and from other major global organizations, measures parity along a series of metrics including political empowerment, economic participation, education, and health. Last year’s report warned that the economic gap between men and women was widening, even as overall parity was improving. This year, it finds, the economic gap is even worse, and at the current rate of progress is projected to persist for another two centuries:
At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to close, compared to 83 last year. The workplace gender gap will now not be closed for 217 years, the report estimates. But with various studies linking gender parity to better economic performance, a number of countries are bucking the dismal global trend: over one-half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months.
“We are moving from the era of capitalism into the era of talentism. Competitiveness on a national and on a business level will be decided more than ever before by the innovative capacity of a country or a company. Those will succeed best, who understand to integrate women as an important force into their talent pool,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
The top-scoring countries for gender parity across all measures are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda, and Sweden. Canada is ranked at #16 and the US at #49, a four-place decline from last year. The WEF highlights Canada and France (#11 as among the countries that have made significant gains in gender parity in the past year. However, a high place on the list doesn’t mean that a country is closing all of its gender gaps, and the economic one is proving the most stubbornly difficult to close.
The jobs search costs for new graduates can be enormous, and not everyone who wants to work in a major city can afford to travel there for job interviews. In the UK, where socioeconomic diversity is becoming an ever-greater focal point of companies’ diversity and inclusion practices, Barclays’s is doing something to help candidates manage that cost. People Management’s Emily Burt has the details on their initiative, which is meant to improve economic diversity by helping graduates who can’t afford to stay in cities while interviewing:
The month-long ‘Barclays Graduate Rooms’ scheme will allow graduates to apply on a first-come, first-served basis for two nights of free accommodation in studio apartments close to their interview locations, regardless of whether their interview is with Barclays or another organisation.
“We hope that by offering free accommodation in some of the most popular cities for graduate jobs, we’ll go some way to helping those who would otherwise struggle,” said Sue Hayes, managing director of personal banking at Barclays.
Barclays here is acknowledging how much of a barrier to entry these costs can be to candidates from outside major urban areas and less affluent backgrounds: