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10 depressing stats about workplace discrimination.


Dr. Neil Morelli


Despite making bold commitments to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) that include setting hiring goals, requiring diversity training, and tying bonuses to diversity achievement, most US organizations have made little measurable progress. Women and people of color still consistently get fewer jobs, lower pay, and receive more discriminatory behavior from bosses and peers than their white male counterparts.

Discrimination isn’t just occurring at rogue businesses through overtly racist managers. It happens everywhere. Even the most innovative organizations like Google continue to fail when it comes to D&I.

In case you think workplace discrimination is being exaggerated, here are some disturbing stats to make you think about what you could be doing to bring change:

  1. Discrimination starts with names. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that job applicants with “white-sounding names”, like Emily and Greg, were more likely to land an interview than those with African-American-sounding names, like Jamal or Lakisha. In the study, candidates with white-sounding names needed to send roughly 10 resumes to get a job interview; while those with African-American names had to send 15 resumes to get a callback, despite having the same qualifications.
  2. There are more CEOs named ‘John’ than all-female Fortune 500 CEOs combined. In 2015, a study found that there are more male CEOs named John than female CEOs of any name across virtually all American industries. By 2018, female CEOs outnumbered male CEOs named John by only 2 (25 vs. 23), but women still only represent five percent of total Fortune 500 CEOs.
  3. Less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black. There are currently four Black CEOs in Fortune 500 companies – Marvin Ellison of Lowe's, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, Roger Ferguson of TIAA, and Jide Zeitlin of Tapestry.
  4. Low-scoring rich kids do better than high-scoring poor kids. Roughly 30% of low-income kindergartners with high test scores get a college education and a good-paying entry-level job, while kindergartners who come from the highest-income households and have low test scores have a 70% chance of reaching the same education and job level.
  5. White workers are more likely to have higher earning jobs. In 2016, white workers held 77% of jobs that pay “family-sustaining earnings,” while Black workers only held 10% of those jobs. Latinx workers held 13% of them.
  6. Women often get paid less. Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And the discrimination widens the higher up the pay scale you look. The highest-paid occupations have the biggest gender pay gaps while the lowest-paid occupations have the smallest.
  7. A majority of Black workers say they experience discrimination in some form at work. 56% of Black workers report experiencing racial discrimination when applying for a job; and 57% report being personally discriminated against in the workplace when it comes to receiving equal pay or promotions, according to a 2017 report co-authored by Harvard’s school of public health. In comparison, 50% of Black people report discrimination when interacting with police.
  8. Educated Black workers are consistently under-employed. In a 2019 study – when the economy was booming -- Black workers with a college or advanced degree were still more likely than their white counterparts to be underemployed. Almost 40% were in a job that typically does not require a college degree, compared with 31% of white college grads.
  9. Black workers are twice as likely to be unemployed. Even during the height of the economic boom, Black workers were twice as likely to be unemployed (6.4%) as white workers (3.1%). It is a pattern that has persisted for more than 40 years.
  10. Hispanics with darker skin face more discrimination. Fully 30 percent of Hispanic workers with darker skin tones report that they have been treated unfairly in hiring, pay, and/or promotion decisions – compared to 19 percent of those with lighter skin tones.

These numbers are undeniable (and awful) and so far-reaching that every business leader should question whether their organization has a systemic discrimination problem, and what they can do to fix it.

This change begins with recruiting. If you are a recruiter or a hiring manager, take a hard look at your recruiting processes. Where are subjective or instinctual decisions being made that could be subject to bias? How diverse is your candidate pool? What tools and strategies could you use to make more objective decisions?

These data points suggest that discrimination in recruiting and promotion is systemic, but we can do better. If you aren’t sure what steps to take to make that change, check out this blog on how to get started.

Worried manager looking at statistics in the breakroom

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