5 Minute Read

Reducing Racial Bias In the Workplace

Recent studies show there is a positive linear relationship between increases in company diversity and earnings. So the more diverse your team, the more productive it is, and the more productive your team, the money your company stands to make. It’s then easy to make a business case for diversity. But while there’s no question that diversity is good for business, making room for that diversity, and eliminating the racial biases that impede the path to it, is a much harder task.


Sweat the Small Stuff

The biggest issue facing companies who want to diversify is that people seem to think racism only exists as major infractions or inhumane treatment, such as segregation or Apartheid. The truth is that bias has scurried into smaller aggressions, and most of the time our biggest problems with race are the ones that take longest to notice. Jason Marsh, Director of Programs at the Greater Good Science Center, advises us to look at these smaller problems when tackling racism and bias.

“These subtle, practically automatic judgments stem from our evolutionary propensity to be wary of those who seem unfamiliar or different from us, and they’re guided by prevailing cultural stereotypes that run so deep that they can even make African Americans suspicious of people of their own race, as Correll’s work indicates. These judgments can betray prejudices that we didn’t even know we had—which makes them especially difficult to control. And in the heat of the moment, they can have tragic consequences.”

The root of racial bias in the workplace isn’t obvious, and we should work to find less obvious solutions.


Avoid the Quick Fix

Creating diversity in the workplace isn’t easy, and it’s definitely not simple. Many of the solutions organization may be quick to implement in order to better their margins image with consumers and candidates are not easy fixes. Affirmative action, a common staple in university attendance policies, is seen as a quota in the workplace, and is thus illegal. And even when companies implement it into their hiring processes through other means, instituting these quotas means subjecting their beneficiaries to more scrutiny from their peers; the moment they slip, their co-workers will be quick to point out their lack of qualification and how they were hired through a quota. This is anathema to team-building.

The problem with arbitrary initiatives like affirmative action is that when used in the workplace they don’t address the problem at hand — the biases. While they’re a boon in the university setting, where they’re used as a way to advance the education of people who may not get the chance at a college education otherwise, using it in the workplace is more of a stopgap. Employees will continue to have biases, hire people begrudgingly, and continue the cycle that makes racial diversity seem like a requirement and not a benefit.


Implementing Real Solutions

As we’ve alluded to before, the biases themselves are what make people less likely to hire people who aren’t like themselves. The best way to fight these biases, then, is to make people aware of them without criminalizing them. Hiring teams and recruiters need to know that everyone has their biases, and that they aren’t bad people for having them. By recognizing that their biases are based largely on how another group has been presented to them in the past, and reversing the roles they typically attribute to other races, we can reduce the bias when it comes time to interview candidates.

As for the hiring process itself, introducing nameless resumes could help reduce the bias of the initial hiring process. By removing names from resumes, you can trim them down to qualifications alone, and prevent people from making judgments based entirely on someone’s name. When companies use these blind methods to find talent, diversity naturally increases — by around 20% in some cases.

Everyone has these biases, and they’re hard to overcome alone. Organizations must realize they can’t pretend to have eliminated them, implement the proper solutions, and find ways to properly creating diverse, collaborative teams if they want to get the best out of their diversity recruiting initiatives.