Tag Archives: equal opportunity

Diversity Making Little Progress in the Business World

24 Jun
workplace segregation

Despite everything, many workplaces are still segregated by gender and race.
Image: Shutterstock

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published a study tracking the segregation of women and minorities in the workplace.  Even though you have most likely been through a diversity training in the last six months, you may find that your co-working population looks a lot like you.  It turns out that equal opportunity has stalled for thirty years.  After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, government and social pressure on firms to reduce segregation created more equal opportunity for minorities, most significantly for white women.  However, the levels of jobs where women and blacks work side by side with white males has leveled out, and in some cases lowered, since the 1990s.

workplace diversity

Only 1 in 6 private businesses hold managers accountable for professional development of minorities.
Image: Shutterstock

For example, over 70% of black women in the workforce today would need to switch careers in order to have an even representation in all major occupational fields.  This is down only about 10% from 1970, and the line has been nearly flat since 2000.  Black males have been sitting on a 50% segregation rate for thirty years, and while white women’s segregation has come down the most significantly, it has tapered off in the last decade.  The study concluded that the reasoning for these results has been from a shift from accountability and outspoken public opinion to trainings and vague policies built into the company handbook.  HBR found that today, only about 1 in 6 private businesses actually hold managers accountable for professional development of minorities.

This study may prove valuable evidence to the decisions on affirmative action currently being weighed in the Supreme Court.  Many people believe we should end the practice of requiring a certain percentage of minorities to be chosen for university programs or jobs.  While affirmative action is slightly different than equal opportunity, the decision could affect how people feel about progressing underrepresented groups in the workplace.  The data shows that something needs to change, but perhaps the programs need innovation to integrate our workforce into a true reflection of our population.

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