Being both a “social issue” and a business concern, diversity and inclusion is one area where events in the corporate world can have a significant impact on society writ large: For example, just look at how businesses in the US have shaped the public conversation around issues like immigration, LGBT inclusion, and freedom of speech in the past two years. This dynamic works both ways, however, and changing conventions of how diversity is discussed in the academic and media environments can push organizations to rethink how they implement D&I on the ground. Recently, several new terms have entered this discourse that present new challenges (and opportunities) for D&I leaders to bring new dimensions to their work.
At Gartner’s ReimagineHR conference in Orlando last week, Gartner VP, Team Manager Lauren Romansky gave a presentation on three of these emerging concepts from psychology and sociology, and how D&I can leverage them as more than just buzzwords, to create value in their organizations. The terms are:
Intersectionality: A holistic picture of identity, which asserts that various dimensions of diversity (such as sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, gender, disability, or socioeconomic status) are inseparable when considering individual experiences. For example, whereas women and black Americans both experience specific forms of discrimination and adversity, the intersection of these identities means black women in particular have a discrete experience that is more than the sum of its parts.
Psychological safety: A shared belief that a team feels comfortable taking interpersonal risks. This means that team members are able to bring their authentic selves to work and communicate openly and transparently without fear of negative professional consequences. Psychological safety (a group dynamic) is different from trust (an individual dynamic), but can help build trust between team members.
Belonging: A sense of acceptance and community within a given group. Over the past several decades, D&I has evolved from making sure historically disadvantaged groups are represented in the workplace (diversity) to making sure they are invited to participate (inclusion). Belonging can be thought of as the next step in that evolution, toward making sure these employees feel like full members of their workplace communities.
Bringing these ideas into D&I can help add value in various ways.
Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay day, a date marking the pay gap between black women and white men in the US by representing how far into the next year a typical black woman has to work to earn as much as a typical white man earned in one year. It comes considerably later in the calendar than Equal Pay Day, which is observed in early April and symbolizes the gender pay gap irrespective of race; this illustrates the greater degree to which black women are disadvantaged in the American workplace than their white peers. McKenna Moore at Fortunehighlights the salient statistics:
Women earn 80 cents for every dollar that men make, but black women make 63 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make. This means that black women also make 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women, according to a study published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And the gap is only widening for women, both black and white. Extended over a 40-year career, the wage gap has black women earning $850,000 less than men’s median annual earnings, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Studies show that the pay gap starts early. An data analysis of BusyKid’s app’s 10,000 users shows that parents pay boys a weekly allowance twice the size that they pay girls. By 16, black women are earning less than white men and the gap only widens as they age. As black women have families of their own, the gap means less money for their families, which is particularly harmful because more than 80% of black mothers are the main breadwinners for their households, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Google’s 2017 diversity report, released last week, expands on the information included in previous reports to cover the retention and attrition of underrepresented talent, as well as an intersectional analysis of race and gender at Google. Overall diversity figures were little changed from last year’s report and showed limited progress since 2014, when Google first began making this data public. Men make up 69.1 percent of the tech giant’s workforce, while its racial makeup is 53.1 percent white, 36.3 percent Asian, 2.5 percent black, 3.6 percent Hispanic or Latinx, and 4.2 percent multiracial. In 2014, the Googler community was 61.3 percent white, 30 percent Asian, 1.9 percent black, 2.9 percent Hispanic/Latinx, and 3.6 percent multiracial.
The company has made some progress in improving the gender balance of its leadership over the past four years, with its the percentage of women in leadership globally rising from 20.8 to 25.5 percent. Google’s US leadership is 66.9 percent white, 26.3 percent Asian, 2 percent black, 1.8 percent Latinx, 0.4 percent Native American, and 2.7 percent of more than one race. Black and Latinx representation in leadership have improved slightly since 2014, while the report highlights that 5.4 percent of new leadership hires in 2017 were black.
The attrition data included in this report touches on an issue that tech companies struggling with diversity and inclusion have discovered to be of critical importance: not just recruiting diverse candidates but also retaining those employees for the long term. Based on an index of US attrition, Google’s report shows that attrition rates are highest among black and Latinx employees, at 127 and 115 compared to an overall index of 100. “Black Googler attrition rates, while improving in recent years, have offset some of our hiring gains,” Google acknowledges, “which has led to smaller increases in representation than we would have seen otherwise.” On a global index, attrition was slightly higher for men than for women, however, at 103 compared to 94.
In the US, where long legacies of sexism and racism continue to hold back women and people of color in the workplace, black women face challenges that are greater than the sum of those faced by white women and black men. The pay gap for black women is more severe, they are passed over for promotions at an even greater rate than white women, and diversity and inclusion initiatives that focus on racial diversity and gender equality separately don’t always address the issues black women have to deal with at the intersection of these two axes of discrimination.
One consequence of these unique challenges is that while corporate America has made some progress in recent years at increasing the representation of women in leadership, the women who make it into these senior roles are overwhelmingly white, while women of color have a much harder time getting into the C-suite. Since Ursula Burns departed her position as CEO of Xerox last year, there are currently no black women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies, and Fortune‘s latest list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business contains just one black woman: Ann-Marie Campbell, EVP for US stores at Home Depot.
In a new magazine feature, Fortune writer Ellen McGirt takes a close look at what she calls the “black ceiling,” a phenomenon “composed of several complex socioeconomic factors” that holds African-American women back in corporate America. Through a series of interviews with Burns and other black women leaders working to create more space for their peers in the business world, McGirt diagnoses the problem and explores some of the solutions these women are working on:
Black women are at a disadvantage in trying to bridge the familiarity gap with white men in positions of power, because in the words of talent management research firm Catalyst, they are “double outsiders”: They’re neither white, nor men. As a result they’re often shut out from the informal networks that help other people find jobs, mentors, and sponsors.
Silicon Valley tech companies have lately begun to reconsider their approach to publicly reporting diversity statistics, after a series of reports showing lackluster progress at several major organizations. Some companies are now refocusing their reports on their recruiting goals rather than reporting raw data. However, Gizmodo’s Sidney Fussell argues that to fully understand the challenges the tech sector faces when it comes to diversity and inclusion, the public needs more raw data, not less:
Instead of releasing the raw numbers that align with how employees are organized internally, most diversity splash pages (which are usually cited in diversity write-ups instead of the EEO-1) offer only percentages. With raw numerical data, we’d have a much clearer picture of the myriad diversity issues beyond general demographics. We’d be able to see the race/gender breakdown of new hires, the promotion frequency of women in specific fields, and so on.
One group, women of color, are particularly disadvantaged by the way companies release data. Race and gender are recorded separately. Only the raw data of the EEO-1 allows for intersectional approaches to analysis. Ideally, companies would release raw numbers and information on how it organizes candidates internally. For now, we’re limited to little more than what we’re given. And obviously, it isn’t enough.
The absence of more detailed information, Fussell adds, obscures such matters as the specific obstacles women of color have to deal with in the workplace, and the obstacles that prevent nonwhite employees from rising through the ranks.
Another element that these reports don’t typically capture is socioeconomic diversity. In the UK, KPMG recently became the first organization to publish detailed data on the educational and socioeconomic backgrounds of its employees, Sara Bean reports at Workplace Insight:
It’s not news that women are underrepresented in leadership positions in corporate America, government, and other fields, or that this underrepresentation undermines gender equality and quite possibly hurts business performance. However, not all inequality is created equal, and a new report from the American Association of University Women calls attention to how the leadership gap affects minority women most of all. The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor discusses the report’s key findings:
While the report offers little in the way of new explanations or solutions, it’s worth noting for its efforts to call out not just the leadership gap between men and women, but between white women and minority women at the top. “A lot of the leadership research is about all women,” says Catherine Hill, AAUW’s vice president of research. “I think the stories about black and Hispanic women and other minorities get shadowed.”
For instance, when reporting on public school superintendent figures, the report notes that in 2014, white women made up 18 percent of superintendents, black women made up one percent, and women of other races and ethnicities combined made up another one percent. It cites the 2015 Forbes’ billionaires list, showing that while only 46 of the 400 richest people in the United States last year were women, just one of those was a woman of color.
Lydia Dishman at Fast Company elaborates on the importance the authors attach to gender and race stereotyping:
One day after tech giant Intel released its annual report on diversity and inclusion, the fast-growing startup Slack has put out its second set of diversity statistics in less than six months, the Guardian’s Jana Kasperkevic reports:
Black engineers make up 8.9% of Slack’s US engineering staff, according to a new diversity report released by the company on Thursday. The report has been issued just five months after Slack released its initial diversity figures. According to the new report, globally, more than 7.8% of its engineers identify as black, compared to just under 7% in September. The most recent data collection allowed Slack to break down its diversity numbers into global and US employees, whereas the first set of data focused on the company as a whole. In September the percentage of African American employees across all departments was 4%; today this percentage, globally, is down to 3.4%, while US figures are up to 4.4%.
Compared to other Silicon Valley companies Slack – a team collaboration and communication platform – seems to be making some progress on increasing diversity within the company. Yet it is important to put these numbers into perspective. At the moment, the company employs more than 350 people. In December, when the most recent survey was conducted, they employed about 290 employees. This means hiring just three employees who identify as black or who are women could have significantly improved their diversity figures.
Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman highlights the startup’s self-awareness about needing to make both its culture and its recruitment procedures more inclusive: