A PROMISE PARTIALLY KEPT
Loving. Lawrence. Obergefell. Silicon Valley CEOs. Priyanka. Laverne. K-Pop. Asian MCU superhero. Condi. Kamala. Mayor Pete. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The public consciousness of our country, focused as it is on celebrities, public figures, and exceptional achievers, would seem to embrace the growing diversity of America. We as a society have made significant progress in courtrooms and boardrooms instituting laws and policies that address the challenges faced by people who do not fit the historic norms of American society. These changes have created real opportunities for an exceptional few to achieve their full potential, irrespective of whom they are, where they are from, whom they worship, what they look like, or whom they love.
However, these publicly celebrated achievements also distract us from the fact that a large and growing number of people continue to face barriers at each stage of their relationship with corporate America. This is especially true of the technology industry, where the spectacular success of some people at the top detracts from the reality that this is an industry where women and Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and LGBTQ people continue to be excluded and marginalized.
THE ROAD NOT TRAVELLED
To understand why technology companies continue to significantly lag behind progress in other sectors of the economy 1,—including other STEM disciplines 2 and especially in emerging and growing roles 3 , Presentation on “Psychological Safety”, Ubiquitous Preferred Services, 2021. —companies need to start with the ideal vision of a fair and equitable workplace: having a workforce at all levels that reflects the communities they live in and serve, and creating a workplace where all people feel equally valued and protected.
This vision cannot be achieved through a simplistic view of diversity as a number, with a singular focus on meeting a target distribution. Reducing diversity, equity, and inclusion aspirations to mere numbers diminishes the people companies aim to serve and may prevent taking the necessary steps to address inherent barriers that persist to this day. Transforming an organization or industry to fully empower all people as equal members requires a journey that addresses barriers at each step. The first step in the journey, and the one companies often stop at, is diversity, which translates to providing equal, or at least unhindered, access to the same opportunities for everyone. Going beyond diversity is equity, which involves creating conditions through which all people can equally benefit from these opportunities. While diversity and equity policies may address structural barriers, barriers created by specific workplace behaviors can impact inclusion.
Once diversity, equity, and inclusion are achieved, an organization needs to drive belonging by creating an environment where people feel psychologically safe to voice ideas, willingly seek and provide honest feedback, collaborate, take risks, and experiment. 4
Four key factors continue to perpetuate these institutional barriers, corresponding to each step in the journey.
FOUR KEY DRIVERS OF INSTITUTIONAL BARRIERS
- Biased Hiring Processes Inhibit Diversity
The process through which organizations attract and recruit people reflects the biases and unfairness of broader society, ensuring that only a small and unrepresentative sliver of qualified candidates apply or are hired.
- Unfair Opportunities and Recognition Inhibit Equity
Tribal loyalties, unconscious bias, and self-censorship work in a vicious cycle to skew opportunities, recognition, and rewards to accrue disproportionately to people who already benefit from other institutional biases.
- Exclusionary Norms and Rituals Inhibit Inclusion
Workplace culture imposes a high psychological burden on people who are forced to deny parts of their authentic selves to avoid being the subject of uncomfortable conversations or the object of subtle and overt discrimination.
- Psychologically Unsafe Work Inhibits Belonging
Workplaces escalate from psychological burden to harm more often than people realize, and impact performance, health, and well-being through actions and especially non-actions that create and perpetuate these dangers.
1. BIASED HIRING PROCESSES INHIBIT DIVERSITY
The input is not biased, people are. When confronted with the continued underrepresentation of people who reflect broader society, the general refrain is that the hiring and workplace processes are fair and unbiased, but there are just not that many qualified people beyond the usual suspects applying for the jobs. This “cannot address input bias” argument is a core part of the diversity dialog, excusing the lack of representation in the hiring process.
Companies need to recognize that what is dismissed as “input bias”—a statistically skewed sample whose distribution the decision-maker has no control over but based on which they need to make decisions—is only part of the issue. Hiring bias exacerbates existing disparities in education, especially STEM education 5, through practices such as those listed in the table below.
Examples of Biased Hiring Processes and their Impacts
|Limiting recruitment to “top schools” disproportionately benefits people with high parental income and wealth 6 , from homes in non-redlined 7, well-funded school districts 8, and legacy status. 9 10||Unpaid internships provide practical experience for those who can afford it 11, but force others to pick low-skill, low-income jobs over unpaid work in a field of their education, training, and passion.|
|A high percentage of all lateral hires in technology are filled through network recommendations 12, and these “familiarity hires” exacerbate underlying biases in education and access 13||Gendered language in job descriptions (e.g., rockstar, aggressive, ninja) discourages women 14, and superfluous requirements tailored to specific profiles eliminate other qualified candidates.|
|Human and algorithmic bias lead to persistent 15 negative impacts on people with “Black” 16 or “foreign” 17 names, immigrants 18, and people reentering the workforce. 19||Current organizational leadership reflects historical and current recruiting biases, and fails to recognize education, achievement, and life experience that is not within their frame of reference.|
2. UNFAIR OPPORTUNITIES AND RECOGNITION INHIBIT EQUITY
To the winners go the spoils. In the secular mythology of American exceptionalism, meritocracy is a proxy for fairness and persistence is the prerequisite for success, as eulogized by countless rags-to-riches stories. As a result, people are conditioned to accept that the mechanisms that companies rely on to recognize and promote people are reflective of this meritocracy and reward efforts and achievements fairly. This dynamic normalizes deep-seated biases and inefficiencies, where people work under the assumption of a fair and unbiased work environment, while these environments continue to inhibit their success.
Examples of Unfair Opportunities and Recognition, and Their Impacts
|Women are overlooked for key projects 20 or stretch assignments 21 based partly on assumptions about the ability to balance work commitments 22 and the “double shift” at home. 23||Women 24 and racial minorities 25 are less likely to be perceived as leaders and tend to have supporting roles in teams vs. prominent ones visible to leadership. 26 27|
|Lack of relatable role models as mentors 28 limits learning and acculturation, while others have mentors from similar backgrounds acting as active career advocates. 29||Performance appraisals are based on subjective behavioral elements, which reinforce cultural and gender norms 30 that are already overrepresented at senior levels.|
|Performance is evaluated by a narrow group of direct supervisors and leaders, reinforcing small-team biases and favoring people who are more similar to the leaders. 31||Imposter syndrome, felt more acutely by women 32 33 , and racial minorities, 34 leads to reluctance to pursue goals 35; some people can “fake it until they make it,” but others are “doubted till they’re outed.”|
3. EXCLUSIONARY NORMS AND RITUALS INHIBIT INCLUSION
Let us introduce you to the original cancel culture. This is not about “Central Park Karen” or any “maskless warrior” being held to account for their actions. This is about the thousands of people who do not trend on social media, going through the workplace every day, canceling significant parts of themselves through elaborate coping mechanisms, just to exist.Workplace rituals in most companies are based on the social and cultural norms of a very specific subset of the population that is grossly overrepresented at middle and senior levels in most organizations. These compel other people who are excluded by these norms and rituals to confront daily reminders of their otherness, even in the absence of overt hostility and discrimination.
Examples of Exclusionary Norms and Rituals, and Their Impacts
|People who do not drink alcohol or eat specific (or any) meats for personal, health, or religious reasons are expected to attend social events that feature alcohol and meat-centric food options.||Standards for and attitudes toward “professional” attire single out and marginalize people with tattoos 36 or naturally curly hair 37 or mannerisms not part of the mainstream. 38|
|People change or “Americanize” names 39 and accents, and still endure misnaming and mispronunciation 40 and negative perceptions of performance 41 and communication skills. 42||People without normative American backgrounds, upbringing, or lifestyles are excluded by social discussions centered around these topics, and reminded routinely that they are different.|
|LGBTQ workers, facing inconsistent legal protections, cope through stressful mechanisms such as inverted or neutral pronouns for their spouses, or not discussing families altogether. 43||Use of dead names 44 or pronouns 45 and restrooms divided by biologically assigned binary sex 46 remind transgender people that the workplace can be as hostile as the rest of society. 47|
4. PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNSAFE WORK INHIBITS BELONGING
While the line between the unconsciously exclusionary to psychologically unsafe is sometimes difficult to draw, it is easy to know when organizations cross this line. Workplaces sometimes expose people to overt cases of bullying and intimidation, but more frequently create environments where people are pressured to fit in, blamed for circumstances outside their control, afraid to make mistakes, and forced take on additional work with no clear benefit or reasonable prospect of success. Regardless of the specific cause or effect, psychologically unsafe workplaces lead to high levels of stress, fear, and alienation among employees.While these dynamics reflect a broader issue with power imbalance and impact all people on the wrong side of any power divide, the impacts are more acutely felt by women, immigrants, and Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and LGBTQ employees, who are institutionally in more perilous and vulnerable positions than other workers.
Examples of Psychologically Unsafe Work and their Impacts
|Despite a high level of workplace harassment 48 and being a tight-knit industry, technology companies still hire people in senior roles who are known for creating unsafe and toxic work environments. 49||The “work hard, play hard” culture 50 creates addictive behaviors 51 and excludes people with spouses, children, or family who need to sacrifice personal commitments to try and fit in. 52|
Women and racial minorities are handed “glass cliff” assignments without the mandate, support, or tools to achieve these goals, but are held accountable for the inevitable inability to perform. 53
|Pervasive and false assumptions about “diversity hires” being in their roles because they meet some identity criteria, and not being as qualified as other hires 54, erode morale and trust.|
|People are put in prominent roles showcasing diversity in the organization and expected to do this extra work for free while also being treated less favorably for performing these roles. 55||Women 56 and racial minorities 57 who have good ideas or add value often do not get the credit, recognition, or rewards, as these are often appropriated or subject to higher scrutiny.|
In the second part of this article, we’ll explore 12 practical and tangible steps that technology leaders can take to address institutional barriers to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the technology industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Edward Wilson-Smythe (they/them) is a Director in the Digital Consulting practice of AlixPartners and Head of Research at TechPACT. They are an entrepreneurial executive with proven success in defining and leading business model, product, pricing, customer, channel, sales, and marketing innovation. They harness the power of innovation to drive sustained competitiveness, superior business results, and improved social outcomes by defining and executing digital innovation strategies, solutions and partnerships. These innovations drive positive socioeconomic impacts on ecosystems at the corporate, institutional, social, community, and individual levels. Prior to joining AlixPartners, Edward led Revenue & Growth consulting for Manufacturing, Automotive, Industrial and Technology companies at NTT DATA, led digital consulting practices at Avasant and Gartner, and worked as a consultant at Kearney and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Edward is a prolific author and speaker on topics related to innovation, disruptive change, emerging ecosystems and broader socioeconomic impacts of innovation.
Earl Newsome (he/him) is the global chief information officer for Cummins and the co-chair of TechPACT. He leverages 30+ years of global IT leadership experience with Fortune 500 firms to inspire diverse, multinational teams to achieve top performance and deliver increased value to the business while aligning with corporate culture and organizational initiatives. He leads major transformation initiatives to create a world-class center of technology innovation and operational excellence. He brings passion and focus on improving customer experience, increasing employee engagement, and achieving a first-mover advantage for organizations in highly competitive markets. He drives digital maturity and innovation to large organizations by eliminating silos and implementing clearly defined visions, goals, and strategies. Prior to joining Cummins, Newsome was chief information officer for the Americas for Linde, global chief information officer for Praxair and TE Connectivity, chief technology officer for Estée Lauder, and leader of global operations for strategy and integration at Bowne & Co.
The authors thank the following people for their encouragement, guidance, and input: Kimberly Saxton (she/her), Chief Executive Officer, TechPACT, Misti Fragen (she/her), Head of Marketing, TechPACT, Faith Hawley (she/her), Head of Programs, TechPACT, Paula Day (she/her), Head of Marketing for Digital and Private Equity, AlixPartners, Sarah Warren (she/her), Head of Talent Acquisition & People Operations for Digital, AlixPartners, Darin Woolvine (he/him), Director, Digital Consulting, AlixPartners, Filip Nemeth (he/him), Director, Retail Consulting, AlixPartners, Terri Hatcher (she/her), Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, NTT DATA Services, Corie Pierce (she/her), Head of Sustainability, NTT DATA Services, Gina Fields (she/her), Managing Director, Health Innovation & President, THRIVE ERG, NTT DATA Services, Janell Cannedy (she/her), Chief of Staff to the CEO & President, PRIDE ERG, NTT DATA Services, Theresa Kushner (she/her), Head of North America Innovation Center, NTT DATA Services, Priya Bandisode (she/her), Vice President, Digital Consulting, NTT DATA Services, Ellen Daley (she/her), former Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation, NTT DATA Services, Aaron McWilliams (he/him), Vice President, Client Relationships, Manufacturing, NTT DATA Services, Supratim Sarkar (he/him), Client Executive, Manufacturing, NTT DATA Services, Chandramouli Mahadevan (he/him), former Client Executive, Manufacturing, NTT DATA Services
AlixPartners has worked with clients around the world for more than forty years, helping businesses respond to challenges when everything is on the line—from urgent performance improvement to complex restructuring, from risk mitigation to accelerated transformation.The way we work – with our clients, as well as each other – is as much a part of who we are as what we actually do. It’s what makes us different – and the partner of choice for some of the world’s most successful as well as some of the most challenged companies, when it really matters. In such an acutely scrutinous and digitally enabled era, corporate introspection and subsequent transformation at pace in relation to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are critical. The rewards – stewardship, intrinsic and external value – can be significant for the businesses that can bring their purpose and values to the fore.We recognize that businesses have a responsibility, beyond profits, to leverage their size and resources to contribute meaningfully to their communities. As a global consulting firm, AlixPartners is committed to enhancing the communities in which we operate, safeguarding the planet for future generations, and ensuring that all people are able to enjoy peace and prosperity.
TechPACT envisions a world where anyone with a passion for technology has the opportunity to succeed. Founded by a group of impassioned technology CxOs, TechPACT is committed to raising diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) across the technology community.TechPACT empowers members to foster a culture of belonging by building awareness of diversity and equality opportunities and providing actionable strategies and tools to create inclusion. In their effort to expand the pipeline of diverse talent, TechPACT is inspiring youth to pursue careers in technology and providing resources to support diverse professionals throughout their careers. We support teachers and community outreach programs to enable STEAM programs and partner with organizations who are dedicated to closing the digital divide by contributing funding and/or sharing expertise.TechPACT creates accountability through community and achieves its mission through the collective efforts of its members. Our members are a community of technology CxOs and leaders committed to making a difference. Members take “The Pledge,” a personal promise to accept accountability and take action to increase representation and reduce the digital divide. TechPACT members recognize themselves as force multipliers and understand that each action they take creates an unstoppable network effect that will benefit the lives of millions across the globe.To learn more about TechPACT’s mission and to take the TechPACT pledge, visit www.techpact.org.
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Diversity in High Tech”, https://www.eeoc.gov/special-report/diversity-high-tech. Compared to overall private industry, the high-tech sector employed a larger share of whites (63.5% to 68.5%), Asian Americans (5.8% to 14%) and men (52% to 64%), and a smaller share of African Americans (14.4% to 7.4%), Hispanics (13.9% to 8%), and women (48% to 36%). In the tech sector, whites are represented at a higher rate in the Executives category vs. Professional roles such as computer programming (83.3% vs. 68%). However, other groups are represented at significantly lower rates in the Executives category than in the Professionals category; African Americans (2% to 5.3%), Hispanics (3.1% to 5.3%), and Asian Americans (10.6% to 19.5%). Only 20% of people in the Executives category in high tech are women, compared to the overall private sector at 29%.
- Maria Temming, “STEM’s racial, ethnic and gender gaps are still strikingly large”, Science News, April 14, 2021. Women are vastly overrepresented in health care, as they have been for decades. They now make up about 40% of physical scientists, up from 22% in 1990. But women constitute only 25% of workers in computer science, down from 32% in 1990. Black professionals made up only 9% of STEM workers in the United States, but this varied from 11% in health care to 5-7% in computer science and engineering. Hispanic professionals made up only 8% percent of people working in STEM. White and Asian professionals remain overrepresented in STEM.
- Leanne Kemp, “Having women in leadership roles is more important than ever, here’s why”, World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/more-women-in-leadership-shouldnt-matter-but-it-really-does/, March 3, 2020. In cloud computing, just 12% of professionals are women; in Engineering and Data and AI, the numbers are 15% and 26% respectively.
- Jeanine Stewart, Presentation on “Psychological Safety”, Ubiquitous Preferred Services, 2021.
- Maria Temming, “STEM’s racial, ethnic and gender gaps are still strikingly large”, Science News, Society for Science, April 14, 2021.Women earned a whopping 85% of bachelor’s degrees in health-related fields, but a mere 22% in engineering and 19% in computer science. Black students earned 7% of bachelor’s degrees in STEM— lower than their 10% share of all bachelor’s degrees. White and Asian students, on the other hand, are overrepresented among STEM college graduates.
- Gregor Aisch, Larry Buchanan, Amanda Cox and Kevin Quealy, “Some Colleges Have More Students from the Top 1% Than the Bottom 60”, New York Times, January 18, 2017. At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1% of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60%. Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college – universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings. In contrast, less than 0.5% of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all.
- Erika Emery, “Redlining and its influence on educational opportunities in the school system”, Dissertation for the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership for Social Justice, California State University, East Bay, 2016. While unjust real estate practices minimized Black families’ ability to access housing in particular neighborhoods, the city’s physical and socio-economic decline further divided the housing market… school boundaries have created educational redlines that preserve their separate realities. Socioeconomics not only determines the neighborhoods families can access but obtaining housing in particular school zones grants our children admittance into highly sought-after schools.
- https://edbuild.org/content/23-billion A recent study shows that predominantly nonwhite school districts receive $23 billion less funding than majority white school districts, despite serving the same number of students. https://www.zipdatamaps.com/10021 In zip code 10021 (Manhattan’s Upper East Side), the average adjusted gross income is over $500,000 and the population is 80% white. https://www.publicschoolreview.com/new-york/new-york/10021 Public schools in zip code 10021 have average math and reading proficiency score of 81% and 83% respectively. https://www.zipdatamaps.com/10035 For zip code 10035 (Harlem), the average income is slightly over $50,000, and over 80% of the population identify as Black and Latinx. https://www.publicschoolreview.com/new-york/new-york/10035 Public schools in this have an average math and reading proficiency score of 32% and 38% respectively.
- Michael Hurwitz, “The impact of legacy status on undergraduate admissions at elite colleges and universities”, Economics of Education Review Vol. 30 Issue 3, June 2011. By eliminating most sources of outcome bias by controlling for applicant characteristics that are constant across colleges and vice versa, this study estimates that odds of admission are multiplied by a factor 3.13 due to legacy status.
- Dave Bergman, “Does Being a Legacy Increase Your Admission Odds?”, https://www.collegetransitions.com/blog/college-legacy/, January 31, 2022. A study of thirty elite colleges found that primary legacy students are an astonishing 45% more likely to get into a highly selective college or university than a non-legacy. Secondary legacies receive a lesser pick-me-up of 13%.
- Muhammad Alameldin, “Unpaid Internships: Worse than Working for Free”, The Greenlining Institute, November 20, 2020. The median White family has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latinx family — so the financial barrier to unpaid internships is almost insurmountable for the average Black or Latinx student. A student who takes an unpaid internship pays anywhere from $6,000 to $7,000 for travel, housing, clothing, food, etc. — just to work for free, rising to nearly $13,000 with the added cost of paying for college credit while taking an unpaid position.
- Gina Belli, “How Many Jobs Are Found Through Networking, Really?”, PayScale Inc., April 6, 2017.
- Meg Darlinghouse, “Closing the Network Gap”, LinkedIn Official Blog, https://blog.linkedin.com/2019/september/26/closing-the-network-gap, September 26, 2019. A LinkedIn member in a zip code with a median income over $100K is nearly 3x more likely to have a stronger network than a member in a lower-income zip code. A member at a top school is nearly 2x more likely to have a strong network. A member who works at a Top Company is almost 2x more likely to have a strong network. The reality is that where you grow up, where you go to school, and where you work can give you a 12x advantage in gaining access to opportunity.
- Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen and Aaron C. Key. “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 101 No. 1, 2011. In a study of 493 job advertisements in Canada’s two leading job search websites: monster.ca and workopolis.com, 231 jobs within male-dominated areas (Plumber, Electrician, Mechanic, Engineer, Security guard, Computer programmer) contained greater masculine wording than 262 jobs from female-dominated areas (Human resources, Bookkeeper, Registered nurse, Early childhood educator, Administrative assistant). Men displayed only a slight preference for masculinely worded advertisements. In contrast, women were deterred from masculinely worded jobs, finding them less appealing compared with the same types of jobs advertised with feminine wording. Masculine wording in job advertisements leads to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women, which likely perpetuates gender inequality in male-dominated fields.
- Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination”, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 9873, July 2003. Results of a field experiment to measure racial discrimination in the labor market, based on applying with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers, show significant discrimination against African American names: White names receive 50% more callbacks for interviews. Having a higher quality resume, featuring more skills and experience, made a white-sounding name 30% more likely to elicit a callback, but only 9% more likely for Black-sounding names.
- Patrick M. Kline, Evan K. Rose and Christopher R. Walters, “Systemic Discrimination Among Large U.S. Employers”, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 29053, August 2021. Based on the results of a nationwide correspondence experiment sending more than 83,000 fictitious applications with randomized characteristics to geographically dispersed jobs posted by 108 of the largest U.S. employers, distinctively Black names reduce the probability of employer contact by 2.1 percentage points (or by ~9%) relative to distinctively white names.
- Rupa Banerjee, Jeffrey G. Reitz And Phil Oreopoulos, “Do Large Employers Treat Racial Minorities More Fairly? A New Analysis of Canadian Field Experiment Data”, Robert F. Harney Program in Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, January 25, 2017. Based on submission of 13,000 computer-generated resumes to a sample of 3,225 jobs offered online in Toronto and Montreal for university-trained applicants, differences in employer response to Asian names – perceived as originating in India, Pakistan, or China – exists even when the Asian-named applicant has all Canadian qualifications (20% disadvantage for large employers, almost 40% for small employers) and when they have some or all foreign qualifications (35% disadvantage for large employers, over 60% for small employers).
- 2022, Nicole Kreisberg, “Even with green cards, immigrants face hiring discrimination based on where they were born”, Chicago Tribune, February 8, 2022. Based on an experiment sending resumes online to 1,364 job postings in eight of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, with resumes representing fictitious Latino male college graduates that were identical in every way except for whether they were born on American soil, employers called back the foreign-born candidates for a job interview nearly half as often as native-born candidates — even when foreign-born candidates signaled that they had green cards and legal documentation.
- Kate Weisshaar, “Stay-at-Home Moms Are Half as Likely to Get a Job Interview as Moms Who Got Laid Off”, Harvard Business Review, February 22, 2018. Based on sending 3,374 resumes to job listings in 50 U.S. cities for accountants, financial analysts, software engineers, HR managers, and marketing directors, 15.3% of employed mothers, 9.7% of unemployed mothers, and 4.9% of stay-at-home mothers received a callback, and while 14.6% of employed fathers and 8.8% of unemployed fathers received a callback, only 5.4% of stay-at-home fathers did.
- Sarah Prescott Smith, “Women are less likely to be given opportunities or rewards in the workplace than men”, YouGov, March 8, 2018. Based on a survey of 1579 working adults, while six in ten men have been had the chance to take charge of a project (59%) or more complex tasks (60%) compared to other people at the same level, this falls to 44% and 50% respectively among women.
- Cailin S. Stamarski and Leanne S. Son Hing, “Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organizational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism”, Frontiers in Psychology Vol. 6 1400, September 16, 2015. Managers give women fewer challenging roles and fewer training opportunities, compared with men. For instance, female managers and midlevel workers have less access to high-level responsibilities and challenges that are precursors to promotion. Further, men are more likely to be given key leadership assignments in both male-dominated fields and female-dominated fields. This is detrimental given that challenging roles, especially developmental ones, help employees gain important skills needed to excel in their careers.
- Stefanie Mockler, “Perceived Choices: Perceptions of Mothers’ Devotion to “Family or Work” or “Family and Work””, College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations, DePaul University, 2015. The role of motherhood is culturally associated with reduced performance expectations and lower performance evaluations. This is referred to as the motherhood penalty. Based on a study of 700 participants, work-devoted women were viewed most favorably on work-related dimensions (i.e., commitment, dependability, likelihood to be promoted and trained) and least favorably on family-related dimensions (i.e., parental effectiveness, commitment to family) compared to their family-devoted counterparts. This is consistent with prior research suggesting that women make a trade-off when holding dual work and family roles.
- Leanin.org, “Women are maxing out and burning out during COVID-19”, https://leanin.org/article/womens-workload-and-burnout. Among women and men who have full-time jobs, partners, and children, women are spending an average of 7.4 more hours per week than men on childcare (39.8 hours vs. 32.4 hours), and 5.3 more hours caring for elderly or sick relatives (10.4 hours vs. 5.1 hours). Most women are also spending at least 7 more hours than men on housework (57% of women are spending 21 hours or more, while 60% of men are spending 14 hours or less). That adds up to a difference of almost 20 hours per week — the equivalent of a part-time job.
- Katie L. Badura, Emily Grijalva, Daniel A. Newman, Thomas Taiyi Yan, Gahyun Jeon and Matthew Biddle, “Gender and leadership emergence: A meta-analysis and explanatory model”, Personnel Psychology Vol. 71 Issue 3, Autumn 2018. We found showing sensitivity and concern for others — stereotypically feminine traits — made someone less likely to be seen as a leader. However, it’s those same characteristics that make leaders effective. Thus, because of this unconscious bias against communal traits, organizations may unintentionally select the wrong people for leadership roles, choosing individuals who are loud and confident but lack the ability to support their followers’ development and success.”
- Sonia M. Ospina and Erica G. Foldy, “Race and Leadership: Implications for Leaders of Color and Leadership Development Programs Addressing Issues of Diversity”, The Research Center for Leadership in Action, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University, December 2010. Studies of predominantly white work environments document the constraints that leaders of color face based on how they are perceived by others. This work starts from the assumption that leaders of color are disadvantaged because, for various reasons, they are not perceived as legitimate. This work suggests that when people of color are given access to leadership positions, they may still face constraints from their colleagues and subordinates due to power inequities that privilege whiteness.
- Claire Cain Miller, “Technology’s Man Problem”, New York Times, April 5, 2014. Women often take on the role of product manager, or P.M., which entails the so-called soft skills of managing people and bridging the business and engineering divide. Yet even though this is an essential job, it’s the purely technical people — not the businesspeople — who get the respect in the tech industry.
- Ryan General, “Why Asian Americans Don’t Get More Leadership Roles”, Nextshark, December 21, 2016. Individuals who view Asians with their high competence and low sociability ratings would choose to avoid interacting with them. The stereotype about the “highly competent” Asians may make them appear threatening competitors at work. Meanwhile, the other Asian stereotype of being socially inept can easily be judged as a trait unfit for a leadership position.
- Christine Silva, “Mentoring: Necessary but Insufficient for Advancement”, Catalyst, Inc., December 1, 2010. Mentors benefited men more than women even when women are mentored earlier and more often in their careers. This is in part because men secure mentors in more senior positions. But it’s also because male mentors tend to sponsor rather than just mentor.
- Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Kennedy Ihezie, “20% of White Employees Have Sponsors. Only 5% of Black Employees Do”, Harvard Business Review, February 10, 2022. Male and female managers who win sponsorship are 23% and 19% more likely respectively to progress to the next rung of the career ladder than peers who do not have sponsors. This effect is particularly applicable to Black employees, who are 65% more likely to progress if they have a sponsor. However, only 5% of up-and-coming Black employees succeed in winning sponsorship compared to 20% of their white peers.
- Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, JoAnne Wehner, and Shelley J. Correll, “Why Most Performance Evaluations Are Biased, and How to Fix Them”, Harvard Business Review, January 11, 2019. When the context and criteria for making evaluations are ambiguous, bias is more prevalent. Without structure, people are more likely to rely on gender, race, and other stereotypes when making decisions – instead of thoughtfully constructing assessments using agreed-upon processes and criteria that are consistently applied across all employees. Lack of structure led to very different reviews that tended to advantage men, while offering women less praise and less actionable guidance to work with.
- Nancy DiTomaso, “The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality Without Racism”, Russell Sage Foundation, 2013. Most academic research, public-policy discussions and even corporate-diversity programs tend to start with the assumption that racial and other forms of inequality grow out of prejudice , bias (conscious or unconscious) and discrimination. But in a structure of inequality that already favors them, most whites do not have to do bad things to minority groups in order to gain advantages; they only have to do good things for each other, which they actively seek and do.
- Macy Bayern, “How imposter syndrome makes the tech gender gap even worse”, TechRepublic, July 11, 2019. Imposter syndrome can easily create a vicious cycle in the minds of women in tech. Feeling outnumbered is intimidating enough, but feeling underestimated and overlooked increases those insecurities, causing women to succumb to their imposter syndrome and hold back.
- Kate Turner, “How do men and women tackle imposter syndrome differently?”, WeAreTheCity, https://wearethecity.com/how-do-men-and-women-tackle-imposter-syndrome-differently/. More women than men experience a lack of confidence in the workplace (79% of women vs 62% of men). On top of this, 47 per cent of those women who admitted they were lacking confidence, feared that they aren’t getting enough support from their manager to overcome this and dispel their feelings of imposter syndrome.
- Christine Zekis, “Imposter Syndrome: Slaying the Beast”, AfroTech Conference, https://www.afrotech.com/christine-zekis-imposter-syndrome, November 8, 2021. People often feel self-doubt, sabotage their success, overachieve and set challenging goals when experiencing imposter syndrome. While Black professionals may experience imposter syndrome the most, the phenomenon doesn’t discriminate; it can affect anyone.
- Tara Sophia Mohr, “Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified”, Harvard Business Review, August 25, 2014. Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. Three barriers – believing all job qualifications were indeed requirements; reluctance to apply when anticipating failure; following guidelines for who should apply too literally – together account for 78% of women’s reasons for not applying.
- Keith Miller, “Discrimination Against Tattoos in the Workplace”, https://futureofworking.com/discrimination-against-tattoos-in-the-workplace/. 31% of HR Managers say tattoos are a reason for limiting an employee’s potential. Only bad breath (34%) and piercings (37%) exceeded tattoos as a negative. Most HR Managers say that all things being equal, the more “clean cut” applicant will be chosen.
- Christy Zhou Koval and Ashleigh Shelby Rosette. “The Natural Hair Bias in Job Recruitment”, Social Psychological and Personality Science Vol. 12 Issue 5, 2021. Black women with natural hairstyles, such as curly afros, braids or twists, are often perceived as less professional than Black women with straightened hair, particularly in industries where norms dictate a more conservative appearance.
- Maura Cheeks, “How Black Women Describe Navigating Race and Gender in the Workplace”, Harvard Business Review, March 26, 2018. Many of the women talked about having to code-switch, or embrace the dominant culture at work. Another pattern was what one of the women called “dimming my light,” or dampening aspects of their personality to avoid making colleagues uncomfortable. None of the women interviewed regularly worked with other women of color.
- Sonia Kanga, Katy DeCellesa, András Tilcsika and Sora Junb, “Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market”, Administrative Science Quarterly Vol. 61 No. 3, March 17, 2016. Thirty-six percent of interviewees (31% of Black respondents and 40% of Asian respondents) reported that they personally engaged in résumé whitening. Nearly half of those who reported personally engaging in résumé whitening had changed the presentation of their first name on their résumé. Among Asian respondents, a frequent change was to adopt a first name that was different from their legal or preferred first name. The most common technique that Black interviewees reported was to use their middle name, rather than first name, if the former sounded more “white” or “neutral” than the latter
- Kimmy Yam, “Americanizing Asians: The mental toll of being asked to change your name”, NBC News, June 26, 2020. We live in a world, and an educational system, that is guided by a dominant culture and is racially/culturally hierarchical. When someone in a position of power changes someone’s name because they find it inconvenient or challenging to their comfort — through that interaction, they are disrespecting, devaluing who that person is. These interactions can potentially prompt those who do not come from the dominant culture to internalize the racism and believe their culture or aspects of their identity are an inconvenience, or even inferior.
- Laura Huang, Marcia Frideger and Jone L. Pearce, “Can Having a Foreign Accent Hurt Your Career?”, Association for Psychological Science, January 15, 2014. Business students participating in the study rated both native-born Caucasian- and Asian-American candidates as more likely to be hired than men with the foreign accents. And compared to the native English speakers, the non-native speakers were rated as weaker on political skill, regardless of their race and their rankings on communication and collaboration abilities. Participants also rated entrepreneurs with non-native accents as less politically adroit than native-accented competitors, no matter how effective they found those presenters to be at communication and collaboration.
- Christine Ro, “The pervasive problem of ‘linguistic racism’”, British Broadcasting Corporation, June 3, 2021. When English is spoken by some Europeans, they can be considered cute, sophisticated, stylish and so forth But English spoken by Asians, Africans or Middle Easterners may be viewed as challenging and unpleasant. This linguistic stereotyping applies even when those people are in fact native speakers of English. Just seeing an Asian face makes some Americans consider that speaker’s English to be hard to understand, regardless of how they actually speak or where they were born.
- Pierre Dupreelle, Gabrielle Novacek, Jeff Lindquist, Nathan Micon, Simon Pellas and Glennda Testone, “A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived—Inclusive Cultures Must Follow”, Boston Consulting Group, June 23, 2020. 40% of LGBTQ employees are not out at work. 36% of out employees have lied or “covered” parts of their identities at work in the past year. 54% of employees who are out at work remain closeted to their clients and customers. 75% have experienced negative day-to-day workplace interactions related to their identity. LGBTQ employees who are out at work are 2x more likely to feel psychologically safe, and 1.5x more likely to feel empowered and take creative risks
- KC Clemens, “What Is Deadnaming?”, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/deadnaming, October 19, 2017. Deadnaming occurs when someone, intentionally or not, refers to a person who’s transgender by the name they used before they transitioned. You may also hear it described as referring to someone by their “birth name” or their “given name.” When you refer to a person who is transgender by their non-affirmed name, it can feel invalidating. It can cause them to feel like you don’t respect their identity, you don’t support their transition, or that you don’t wish to put forth the effort to make this necessary change.
- Sabra L. Katz-Wise, PhD, “Misgendering: What it is and why it matters”, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, July 23, 2021. Imagine a scenario in which you are called the wrong pronoun or honorific — for example Mr., Ms., or Mrs. — multiple times a day. We know from research (KL McLemore, “A minority stress perspective on transgender individuals’ experiences with misgendering”, Stigma and Health Vol. 3 Issue 1, February 2018) that this is both exhausting and demoralizing. When people are misgendered, they feel invalidated and unseen. When this happens daily, it becomes a burden that can negatively impact their mental health and their ability to function in the world.
- Christianna Silva, “Almost Every Transgender Employee Experiences Harassment or Mistreatment on the Job, Study Shows”, Newsweek, November 29, 2017. Of the 90% of transgender workers who faced discrimination at work, about a fourth were forced to use restrooms that did not match their gender identity, were told to dress, act and present as a different gender from their own in order to keep their job, or had a boss or coworker share private information about their transgender status without their permission.
- Christianna Silva, “Almost Every Transgender Employee Experiences Harassment or Mistreatment on the Job, Study Shows”, Newsweek, November 29, 2017. Of the 90% of transgender workers who faced discrimination at work, about a fourth were forced to use restrooms that did not match their gender identity, were told to dress, act and present as a different gender from their own in order to keep their job, or had a boss or coworker share private information about their transgender status without their permission.
- Jamilah Lim, “What’s with tech companies and workplace harassment?”, Techwire Asia, August 17, 2021. 48% of all women in technology experience harassment, with over three-quarters of this being sexual harassment. Just over 10% of men experience any harassment. 42% of women said their harassment was perpetrated by a supervisor. Of the women who were sexually harassed, 54% were victims of sexual assault, 35% were propositioned for sex, and 18% propositioned for sex in exchange for a promotion.
- For legal reasons, the authors cannot share specific names of people who have committed harassment, or companies where this harassment happened. However, readers can explore the following resource – https://money.cnn.com/technology/sexual-harassment-tech/ – for stories of harassed women. Readers can also access public information on people who have committed harassment by simply typing in a person’s name, their current or previous companies, and the words “harassment”, “lawsuit” or “settlement” into a search engine.
- Arielle Pardes, “Silicon Valley Ruined Work Culture”, Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/how-silicon-valley-ruined-work-culture/, February 24, 2020. Silicon Valley’s biggest export is the collapsing barrier between work and life. As the boundaries between work and life become more porous, everyone works all the time. Worst of all, the tech world has managed to recast this workaholism for someone else’s profit as something desirable: “hustle culture.” It’s replaced the 9-to-5 with “the 996”—that is, 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.
- Cori Johnson, “Adderall Has a Tech Industry Problem”, https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/adderall-has-a-tech-industry-problem, August 11, 2014. As performance expectations rise, deadlines tighten, and 80-hour work weeks become the norm, stress and drug addiction rates in the Valley explode. Tech loves the narrative of pushing through to a narrow victory. Look to the “10x engineer”: the willingness to work longer, harder, produce capital, is prioritized above all. The cultural value derived from this investment strategy is a fetish for young, resilient bodies that bounce back from a hangover or a product launch with equal speed and vigor.
- Melissa Santos and Rafe Colburn, “How Perks Can Divide Us” https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/how-perks-can-divide-us, June 9, 2014. Dinner with coworkers may be great for the twenty-something, but it’s also the thing that creates a bright line between the employees with families and obligations outside of work. Beer in the office is fun for some, but it can be alienating to people who don’t drink, and possibly an outright hazard to recovering alcoholics or employees prone to substance abuse. Games are fairly benign, but they’re also a way for people to build relationships across teams and levels in a way that can be difficult for people who don’t join in those games to replicate. These perks are all too often intended to make companies appealing to candidates who are members of – one particular demographic — young, unmarried guys – and they reinforce the monoculture in our industry.
- Laura Morgan Roberts, Anthony J. Mayo and David A. Thomas, “Race, Work, and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience”, Harvard Business Press, August 13, 2019. An assumption of the glass cliff theory is that when occupational minorities are placed in the upper echelon of organizations, their assignments are risky and will be detrimental to their professional development and advancement. Research indicates that when women and ethnic minorities are appointed to executive or corporate roles, they are more likely to find themselves on a glass cliff.
- Nkechi Onwuameze, “Unqualified for the Job or ‘Diversity Shaming?’”, American Society for Public Administration, November 9, 2018. Minority employees have long struggled to overcome the negative stereotype that they are unqualified and that their hiring was mainly to fulfill affirmative action mandates or diversity quotas. This assumption is not only false but inaccurately based on the premise that discrimination no longer exists in the hiring process. Discrimination against minority applicants and women continues to be a major issue that has generated intense debate over the years.
- Francesca Gino, “Another Reason Top Managers Are Disproportionally White Men”, Scientific American, September 12, 2017. Specifically, ethnic minorities and women leaders are penalized when they engage in diversity-valuing behaviors—namely, hiring and promotion behaviors that promote greater demographic balance in organizations. Analyses revealed that diversity-valuing behavior was negatively related to performance ratings only for nonwhite and female leaders. To advance their own careers, these results suggest, minorities and women are forced to avoid behaviors that others might perceive as promoting greater representation of people like them.
- Jessica Bennett, “How Not to Be ‘Manterrupted’ in Meetings”, Time Magazine, January 20, 2015. Male executives who speak more often than their peers are deemed more competent (by 10%), while female executives who speak up are considered less (14% less). The data follows a long line of research showing that when it comes to the workplace, women speak less, are interrupted more, and have their ideas more harshly scrutinized. And the result? Women hold back. That, or we relinquish credit altogether. Our ideas get co-opted (bro-opted), re-appropriated (bro-propriated?) — or they simply fizzle out.
- Gilian B. White, “Black Workers Really Do Need to be Twice as Good”, The Atlantic, October 7, 2015. African American employees tend to receive more scrutiny from their bosses than their white colleagues, meaning that small mistakes are more likely to be caught, which over time leads to lower performance reviews and lower wages.