How to Recruit and Retain Women of Color in Organizations

The case for hiring and retaining a diverse workforce is clear. Carol Fulp, Colette Phillips, Betty Francisco, and Beth Chandler, writing for the Boston Globe, remind us that studies show the following:

  • Diverse companies are more profitable.
  • The millennial workforce is looking for diverse, mission-driven organizations that focus on community and social justice.
  • Commitment to diversity will attract that talent.

Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce requires employers to be aware of challenges that people of color face. The Boston Women’s Workforce Council reports on differences in pay disparities. For every dollar of a white male’s earnings for the same job, white women make 75 cents, Asian women make 71 cents, black women make 52 cents, and Latinas make 49 cents.

Creating pay equity and transparency about salaries is an important step for all employers. Alina Tugend of the New York Times points out that it is also important for employers to understand the concept of intersectionality or the “complex and cumulative way different forms of discrimination like racism, sexism and classism overlap and affect people.” In other words, retaining women, and particularly retaining women of color, requires sensitivity to a type of emotional tax that people of color face in the workplace because of a feeling that they must always be on guard to protect themselves against bias or unfair treatment. Tugend shares research by Catalyst on this issue. A survey of almost 1,600 participants of color (Asian, African American, Latino, or a combination) in a variety of settings found that almost 58 percent said they were highly on guard at work. Being on guard may mean trying to repress personal style in order to play into stereotypes or altering habits to avoid being threatening to dominant group members. Women of color often battle stereotypes:

  • African Americans are thought of as angry black women.
  • Latinas can be perceived as too emotional or too tied to their families.
  • Asians are often viewed as the “model minority.”

None of these stereotypes are considered appropriate for leadership.

Participants at the New York Times New Rules Summit suggested several ways that employers can retain people of color and create inclusive work environments:

  • Create allies as ambassadors within their own demographic. Do not put the burden of creating more inclusive workplaces on minority employees.
  • Foster safe spaces in which dialogue and open discussion about cultural differences can occur so that people learn about each other.
  • Ensure that individuals are vigilant and speak up for those whose voices are not heard.
  • Develop formal sponsorship and mentorship programs for women and men of color to help increase their visibility and social connections in the organization.
  • Maintain employee resource groups so new hires can meet others with similar interests.
  • Hire and nurture diverse teams.

The future of your organization will depend upon your ability to attract and retain diverse talent. What has worked for you?

Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’

Originally published at www.annelitwin.com on November 26, 2018.

Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together', OD Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Workshop Trainer