EverythingPeople This Week!

Published on Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Are Diversity Efforts Really Making Inroads Against Discriminatory Behavior?

Author: Anthony Kaylin

According to a recent study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, the answer appears not so much.  The study entitled “Meta-analysis of Field Experiments Shows no Change in Racial Discrimination in Hiring Over Time” was conducted by Northwestern University, Harvard University, and the Institute for Social Research.  The research analyzed data from some 30 separate studies of hiring outcomes conducted between 1989 and 2015 and assessed trends in hiring bias against African Americans and Latinos over time by analyzing callback rates from all available field experiments of hiring.

Some of the studies involved responses to resumes of fictionalized candidates of different races and ethnicities sent by mail or submitted online. The resumes conveyed equivalent education and work experience and differed only in that some contained ethnically identifiable names or other clues that signaled the applicant’s race.   Other studies tracked how frequently companies followed up with people who posed as equally qualified candidates of different races and ethnicities and applied for jobs in person. In total, the data represents 55,842 applications for 26,326 positions.

The end result?  It appears that there was no change in the levels of bias against African Americans since 1989, although it did find some indication of declining bias against Latinos. Researchers say the results were similar regardless of applicants’ gender, education, experience, or across industries and job types.  More specifically, on average since 1989, white applicants received 36% more callbacks than equally qualified African Americans while white applicants received on average 24% more callbacks than Latinos.

The lead researcher, Lincoln Quillian, believes hiring managers may be ignoring company protocols and making snap judgments about candidates based on their personal prejudices. “Even for well-intentioned employers who think about treating all applicants the same, bias is entering into their decisions,” he says.  However, there appears to be a need for more research into hiring managers’ decision making processes to determine root causes for this issue.

Another paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reviewed the growing pay gap between African Americans and Whites. In 1979, African American men earned 80 cents for every dollar of hourly wages earned by a white male. By 2016, that number had fallen to 70 cents. African American women in 1979 earned 95 cents for every dollar in hourly wages earned by a white woman. In 2016, it was 82 cents.  The paper found that the unemployment rate by African Americans lag both in good and bad economic situations by over 6% compared to whites. 

The Federal Reserve researchers speculate that the real reasons for the disparity are not being measured although industry and education level play a role.  The Federal Reserve also posits that time will not correct the disparity. 

Many organizations state that they embrace diversity and make it a core value in the culture.  If true, on average, it appears that it is not cascading throughout the organization.  Another paper by National Bureau of Economic Research in 2015 showed that African American workers experience greater scrutiny from bosses, which can lead to worse performance reviews, lower wages, and even job loss.

This dilemma is a major issue for HR.  Espousing diversity and walking the talk are two different activities, and HR has to ensure both are being done.  Senior leadership has to be engaged and sponsor all these activities, and when errant managers are found, examples must be made to send a message to the organization.  Without strong leadership and simply worrying about daily operations and profitability, organizations will lose out in the talent wars and be open to liability that will detract from the brand and employee engagement.   

Additional ASE Resources
To learn more on this topic, join us for our first ever AAP/EEOC & Diversity Conference taking place November 15th at Schoolcraft College.  Participants will receive guidance and tools that will reduce employment risks and build talent management capabilities.  Don’t miss this inaugural event sure to arm you with the tools you need to stay compliant and provide a diverse workplace.  To learn more or register, click here.


Source:  The Wall Street Journal 10/3/17, The Atlantic 10/7/15


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