Racial Diversity

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss racial diversity in the workplace

a middle eastern woman wearing a hijabAs with every form of diversity we have discussed, racial diversity is an important part of the workplace. Each year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data shows that an average of $112.7 million a year is collected from employers to pay for racial discrimination violations. This tells us that there is still work to be done to provide a welcoming and inclusive work environment.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination on the basis of race illegal. However, even though the Civil Rights Act was able to change the law, changing the minds and perceptions of others in society may not be as cut and dry. To ensure employment equality, additional pieces of law and regulations have been put in place to protect minority groups. This includes, but is not limited to Equal Employment Opportunity Laws and Affirmative Action. However, even with these laws and regulations in place, the racial diversity growth numbers are moving at an alarmingly slow rate. According to recent numbers, Google’s workforce is 3% Latino and 2% Black. LinkedIn’s company has 5% Latino and 3% Black employees. These are just a small sampling of companies, but the trend is across the board. So what is the problem? Why do companies have such low racial diversity? There is no one-size-fits-all answer here but let’s explore some of the possibilities.

First we need to examine company diversity goals. There are four possibilities:

  1. A company sets a goal to become more diverse and implements it at all three levels of influence
  2. A company wants to be more diverse, sets a goal to do it, but doesn’t know the proper way to go about making it happen
  3. A company states they want to be more diverse but put in no effort to do so
  4. A company wants to keep things as-is and has no interest in diversity

Every company is different and so are their goals. For the purpose of this section, let’s address numbers one and two.

We need to examine recruiting methods in order to see why a larger number of diverse individuals do not get hired. Many companies hire employees based on internal referrals. There is no better advertisement for a company than a happy employee. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to apply for positions where they know someone on the inside. This is not always beneficial for creating diversity because people are oftentimes attracted to individuals similar to themselves. In addition, we need to examine where the company is recruiting new employees. If they continue to recruit from the same places, chances are their applicant pool will remain pretty similar.

Furthermore, there are unspoken and unconscious biases in each of us. Some biases we may not even realize we have. So how does this play a role in encouraging diversity? Marianne Bertrand from Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and Sendhil Mullainathan with MIT, conducted an experiment to see how different names on resumes may play a role in getting a call back. They fabricated names and created fake resumes to send to thousands of different job openings and their findings were rather alarming. According to their study, “Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be contacted for job interviews than those with typical black names.”[1] Whether the decision to call someone in for an interview based on their name was a conscience decision or a subconscious one, it is definitely something to address!

Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander is a lawyer, an associate professor of Employment Law and Legal Studies at UGA, and co-author of the leading Employment Law text in the country. She gave a TEDx Talk on how to utilize “Practical Diversity” in the workplace and in your everyday life. You can view her talk below.

Many people think of African Americans and Caucasians when they think of racial diversity. However, this leaves out other minority groups, such as Hispanic and Asian individuals, who face similar challenges in the workplace and do not account for a large percentage of the workforce. We must strive to get tomorrow’s workforce to more closely mirror the breakdown of the total population—at all levels of all places of work. The bottom line is that today’s workforce has room to grow in regards to racial diversity in the workplace, and it starts with identifying the issue and creating a plan to fix it!

Practice Question


Dyson, Eric. “Improving Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Workplace.” PeopleScout. November 30, 2017. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.peoplescout.com/racial-and-ethnic-diversity-in-the-workplace/

Stainback, Kevin, Corre L. Robinson, and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey. “Race and Workplace Integration.” American Behavioral Scientist 48, no. 9 (May 1, 2005): 1200-228. doi:10.1177/0002764205274816.


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  1. Leonard, Bill. "Study Suggests Bias Against 'Black' Names On Resumes." SHRM. February 1, 2003. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0203hrnews2.aspx.