Racial discrimination in the
workplace has persisted for longer than many may think. Discrimination because
of origin or skin color still exists in many organizations (Wrench, 1997), despite
racial discrimination being outlawed by the majority of the worlds’ countries. Many
employers still practice acts of discrimination to this day, as discrimination
can often be subtle and not so easy to identify. For instance, research shows
that white applicants get approximately 36% more callbacks than African Americans
who possess the same qualifications (Triana, Jayasinghe & Pieper, 2015).
The study also showed that white applicants get about 24% more callbacks
compared to Latinos. Because all the applicants are qualified, it is impossible
for one to declare that they have not been chosen because of their race (Triana
et al., 2015). However, it is true that minorities are less likely to be hired.
According to Noor (2017),
snowy peak syndrome is defined as predominantly white owned companies and
organizations. No matter how balanced the lower posts in an organization are in
terms of the race, those in the higher positions are almost always white. The
Guardian conducted research and found out that only approximately 3% of CEOs,
managers and prominent individuals come from ethnic minorities. The findings
were that about 97% of the most influential people in the UK are white (Noor,
2017). This essay aims at explaining why there is persistent racial
discrimination in the workplace.
One of the reasons given by
experts about the low number of ethnic minorities in top ranking positions is
organizational cliff edge (Stewart, 2009).
Organizational cliff edge refers to the prevention of suitably qualified
individuals from advancing in their career. One reason for preventing them might
be for instance if a minority heads the organization, they might fight the
discrimination that has been in the organization since the beginning, and the
people who have been viewed as superior might lose their legitimacy or
influence (Fox & Stallworth, 2005). When the qualified and high performing
minorities do not receive the same benefits and salaries, however, they leave
the organization for greener pastures, thus leaving the snowy peak leadership
An example of discrimination
in the top managerial positions is the low BME representation in the English
Football Association (Taylor, 2015). The minorities
in the European Football Association are not highly motivated to work hard for
higher positions because there is no hope of holding a top management position.
The white coaches on the other hand are assured of moving up the ladder
smoothly (Taylor, 2015). One coach says
that BAME coaches are not as fulfilled as they had hoped, as racial
discrimination prevented them from demonstrating their talent and expertise.
According to Turnbull (2014), affinity bias is another
reason for the persistence of racial discrimination in the workplace. Most
hiring teams comprise of the majority groups who are mostly white. Because
there are more white people at the top level, there is more possibility of them
being more on the recruitment panel. Turnbull
(2014) argues that affinity bias is the unconscious preference for a particular
candidate. For instance, if two people from different racial groups are
interviewed and they are equally qualified, affinity bias determines who is
going to be hired because employers choose a person who they find to be “good
fit” for them (Carlsson, 2010).
If a hiring panel comprises
of more white people, which is mostly the case, more white people are most
likely to be hired and retained because apart from the professional skills that
help one get and retain a job, there is the degree to which the employer and
employee can relate to each other (Turnbull,
2014). Affinity bias in many cases shields racism because people who are
discriminatory use it to justify their actions.
A case example is the London
Metropolitan Police department that only had about 11% ethnic minority officers
in 2014 despite London having about 40% ethnic minorities (Dodd, 2014). This
disparity of figures is tremendous considering that London comprises of people
from all races. Although there have been efforts to narrow the gap and have
about 25% ethnic minority officers in the Met, not much has been achieved, as the
top ranks are held by white people who also recruit people of their race (Dodd,
2014). Professor Chris Smith and Andre Clarke say that the continued
underrepresentation of BME officers in the Met is due to the failure of
policies and methods being adjusted to consider the requirements and needs of
the multi-racial society. Although London’s ethnic minorities have increased to
about 40%, they still have less numbers in the Met.
Siebers (2015), ethnic boundaries are put into place when people from the same ethnicity
come together and keep outside ethnicities out. Ethnic boundaries characterize
a group and defines a particular ethnic group. Ethnic boundaries are formed by
people’s belief that they originated from the same ancestry. Additionally,
cultural homogeneity does not only define a group, but its ethnic boundary
(Siebers, 2015). Ethnic boundaries have social characteristics in the sense
that people from a particular group prefer to interact with their fellow
members while sidelining or conflicting with outside groups. According to
Wimmer (2013), ethnic closure is when ethnic groups distribute resources by
favoring their kin. All these aspects of ethnic boundary are relevant to racism
and discrimination in the workplace.
of influence of ethnic boundary is the case of Dinesh, an operational commander
in the Dutch police force from Suriname. Dinesh applied to be appointed as a
deputy team leader, but his application was denied on the basis of his cultural
background (Siebers, 2015). The district commander who turned down his
application told him that he was not ‘assertive’ and ‘blatant’ as required.
Despite this assessment, Dinesh obeys his superiors and is calm, both of which
are good qualities for a leader (Siebers, 2015). This case shows discrimination
against one’s culture because the claims of the district commander do not seem
to be genuine or particularly truthful. However, it is apparent that Dinesh was
not hired because he himself is not originally or ethnically Dutch.
Additionally, there is evidence of an ethnic boundary between the Dutch and the
Suriname minorities because they are judged on the basis of their culture, but
not by their personal qualifications or characteristics.
According to Fox and Stallworth (2005), the continued
stereotypes against minorities and white people have been a primary reason for
the persistence of racial discrimination in the workplace. For instance, white
people are said to be better at thinking and reasoning than minorities who supposedly
have a lower thinking capacity. Exposure to these stereotypes since early age
affects how people behave even when they are grown (Roscigno, 2007).
For example, Rees says that in the five years
he has been in the journalism world he has seen his reports routinely being
proofread multiple times, whereas the reports of those of his colleagues who
are Caucasian are published without being edited (Noor, 2017). Moreover, he has
witnessed many young white people being exposed to new exercises and activities
while he is left to perform jobs that are routine and common. The reason for
being sidelined is because he is a minority, which has nothing to do with
whether or not Rees is qualified (Noor, 2017). These discriminatory actions
have persisted because of such malevolent and demeaning stereotypes attached to
the minority races.
Many minorities are said to
be lazy, backward, irresponsible, and several other negative connotations (Roscigno,
2007). It is more difficult for minority groups to survive in the UK and
America because of low education standards. Having a parent who did not go to
college increases the chances of one not being able to pass the high school
level. Such is the case with an overwhelming amount of minorities (McKay et al.,
2007). Therefore, these stereotypes spill over into the workplace, leaving
those who have overcome struggles with discrimination at school find themselves
in the same situation once more. Research shows that minority employees are
more likely to be sent off from work after one mistake compared to white
employees (Stewart, 2009). The reason for
this difference is the racist perception of minorities as untrustworthy.
Cultural upbringing is yet another
reason for the persistence of racial discrimination at the workplace (Bakunin, 2017). The way that people in places
with many different races are raised influences how they behave. Many minority
groups raise their children by telling them that they will be discriminated
against (Coleman, 2004). A large number
of white people, on the other hand, raise their children by warning them that
they should be careful when around their minority friends, further spreading
harmful stereotypes and preconceptions. Although not all parents teach their
children about racism, society also contributes a lot in terms of how people
from different races perceive one another. Although there are calls for people
to shun racism, children grow up being aware that they might be discriminated
against while the others treat their friends with caution (Coleman, 2004).
In Britain, minority workers
are paid 10% less than white workers who have the same job qualifications,
earning approximately £1.20 less in an hour (Triana et al., 2015). The reason
behind the pay gap between the BAME workers and the white workers is that the latter
are a priority in the employers eyes. Considering that all the workers are
qualified for the job, it simply unjust and for some to get paid more than
others. The discrimination has persisted due to laws that regulate labor in the
UK (Carlsson, 2010).
In conclusion, the issue of
racial discrimination has persisted in the workplace due to factors ranging
from cultural upbringing to historical memory. One major factor is the culture
that has been passed from one generation to another. Since the unforgettable
and tacitly significant era of slavery, minorities of all kinds are still
subject to unequal treatment. Despite America and Britain fighting for equal rights,
racial discrimination in the workplace has continued to persist, with unequal
paychecks and less than adequate treatment acting as evidence.
The harmful yet powerful
stereotypes people have against one another affect the ways in which we
communicate with each other in all kinds of environments, but most importantly
in the workplace. Because employers often adhere to the stereotype that white
people exude a better image, they are more likely to hire them to act as the
faces and leaders of their organizations. In the attempts to create a white
ethnic boundary in the workplace, ethnic minorities are too often mistreated
and looked down upon, due to conditions such as snowy peak syndrome and
affinity bias that uphold this boundary. For minorities such as Dinesh and Rees,
whether or not they are qualified matters far less than their racial and
cultural backgrounds, making them victims of racial discrimination in the workplace.