Tag Archives: race in the workplace

Quoted: Leaning in While Black

In a review, published in In These Times, about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, Racialicious senior editor, Tamara Winfrey Harris, writes:

Whether Sandberg, from her perch at the pinnacle of a tech behemoth, is the right person to lead a revolution for less-privileged women has been the topic of much debate. But bits of the author’s wisdom may “click” for particular readers in unexpected ways. Sandberg’s message about choosing supportive partners made me blink, because it stands in stark contrast to advice directed toward a particular segment of professional women. Thanks to concerns about low marriage rates among African Americans, professional black women are bombarded with warnings about careerism and success. A burgeoning genre of advice books instructs straight black women to, in effect, “lean back” in order to attract men.

In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, (the basis for the film Think Like a Man), author Steve Harvey admonishes: “If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol and a guard dog, and you’re practically shouting from the rooftops that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we will see no need to keep coming around.” Elsewhere, Harvey warns women that if they travel for business, their left-behind husbands might understandably stray.

Black women, especially highly successful ones, are expected to sacrifice achievement for the alleged greater good of traditional marriage. And they are encouraged to think more about being chosen than choosing—making themselves attractive to men by conforming to an outdated template of femininity rather than, as Sandberg suggests, selecting a supportive mate interested in a 50/50 partnership.

Sandberg counsels that choosing a mate is one of the most important decisions a working woman will make. If that is true, lack of support, in addition to systemic sexism and racism, may explain why black women fare worse than their white counterparts in the halls of power. All women of color make up just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats and 5 percent of congressional seats. Snagging unsupportive life partners isn’t likely to improve these statistics (or the personal lives of women).

Read more…

Broken System IV: An Open Letter to the Powers-that-Be

by Anonymous Guest Contributor

To Whom it May Concern,

Hi. You may not know me – at least, not very well. You probably are not familiar with my experience, qualifications, or accomplishments. Which is ironic, to say the least, because I have worked for your organization for many years. What’s more ironic is that – at this point – a large portion of our policies, systems, and even curriculum have been created by me, and all the kids we work for know me by name; and yet – we have likely never even exchanged names or a handshake.

So you wouldn’t know that I’ve been working with youth professionally since I was a youth (over 15 years, to be more precise). That I have over six years of formal classroom teaching experience. That I train and mentor other teachers and youth workers (most importantly – your organization’s staff). That I have coordinated programs and workshops for groups ranging from 10 to 500 youth, covering topics from Identity, Culture, and Diversity to Conflict Resolution. That I have taught art, music, math, psychology, public speaking, English and many other subjects (with curriculum of my own design) to middle school and high school students. That I have been a case manager and family contact and support specialist. That I was managing a middle-school arts after-school program in my early twenties. That mentoring youth is just what I do.

Oh – and that I have dedicated myself to your organization for almost seven years.

All that said, though – you still don’t know me. And so it will be hard for you to know where I’m coming from with what I’m about to say. You don’t know how seriously I take my work, and how I’ve dedicated my life to doing it better. That I am willing to get over myself on any number of levels if it means better serving the youth I work for.

And that I speak to you now out of full respect for who you are and the good intentions I believe we all share.

But you don’t know these things, because you’re not involved at my level (nor I at yours). We do not interact. Your role on the board is not your main priority, as you hold other full-time positions. You just make some decisions from time to time about where the money goes, what programs we should be running, things like that. I get it. You’re not in the thick of it – you’ve got a lot of other things going on – so you just haven’t had the time to meet me, officially. That actually all makes sense to me. It does.

But this is where my problem lies – you have veto power over me and my peers. When it comes to the big decisions, you have final say. And that makes so little sense, it kind of blows my mind. Continue reading

The Melting Pot 2009: Job Applicants Choose Assimilation as Means of Economic Survival

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

melting potWhen I hear the words Ellis Island, one of the first things I think of is not the New York point of interest or tiring travel across waters to reach the grand goal of the U.S. of A. and its related Dream. The first words that come to mind for me are “name changes” and “assimilation.” But with the recent economic crisis and the lagging recovery process, Ellis Island comes to mind. Only this time, instead of Eastern Europeans, Italians or the Irish knocking on the door of American opportunity, only to learn that their identities must be altered or ensconced, their traditional cultures erased for the sake of infinitely approaching some Nordic white ideal, the group scrambling for the promised land of economic security and job market acceptance is black.

That’s not to say that blacks in America have never sought assimilation as a means of achieving social acceptance and equality, in fact both during and following slavery, some black Americans employed various methods of mirroring the white majority as they recognized it could mean a chance at social and class mobility. Black immigrant groups arriving to America also faced a similar challenge. Having lived in countries where race-based terminology and categorization, media representation, and general opinion of blacks may have varied from those in the United States, only to arrive and gain an externally-defined identity based on perceptions of black Americans, black immigrants may also have felt or still feel the pressure to change or deny elements of their culture, nationality, ethnicity, and ultimately race.

In the aftermath of the recession, as the competition for the limited jobs that are available has sharpened, few applicants have room for error. Unfortunately for blacks living in the United States, one possible means of avoiding the potential disaster of not even getting a foot in the door at hiring companies is deleting any and all signs of their race. It is common knowledge that “ethnic sounding” names or, in other words, names that are not of Western European, particularly Anglo-Saxon origin, often lead to discriminatory hiring practices.* Even among these names, there are specific ethnic groups whose names are least welcome in the corporate world. Unfortunately, blacks are often the common victims of this discrimination, the bearers of African-American names, despite their qualifications, often being relegated to the bottom of the résumé stack. 

However, most of the fears of being rejected from job opportunities are spread through anecdotes or are the result of self-fulfilling prophecy based on a perception of inadequacy from simply being black (i.e. assuming the hiring party is white and would not be interested in taking on a black employee, thus not applying for the job at all), research often following as a result. Several studies comparing the successes (or lack thereof) of blacks and their white peers have been conducted (particularly as a means of measuring the success of affirmative action policy implementation and its continued need), though all ended with the same result: even with equal levels of educational and occupational experience, white candidates are more likely to be hired following the interview process than blacks. Continue reading

Asian American Employees Underreport Discrimination

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

My fellow Asian Americans, stand up for yourselves in the workplace! According to a new report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Asian American employees are underrepresented in the senior ranks of federal agencies, and likely are underreporting instances of discrimination on the job: Asian-American employees underreport discrimination, report finds.

The report, which was released earlier this month, says that Asian Americans face a number of misperceptions and stereotypes, factors that have become “the framework of barriers establishing glass or bamboo ceilings which present [Asian American and Pacific Islanders] from moving into the upper tiers of an organization.”

A 2005 Gallup poll found that 31 percent of Asian respondents said they had experienced discriminatory or unfair treatment on the job. But the EEOC noted in its report that enforcement actions reveal that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders file only 3.26 percent of discrimination.

Say what now? We already have enough problems with people thinking we as Asian are passive, good little citizens who do what we’re told. It does us no good to let people walk all over us. It’s one thing to be discriminated against — it’s another thing entirely to stay quiet about it. And we wonder why we’re so conspicuously absent from executive and senior management levels…