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The Next America - Workforce 2012 / WORKFORCE

Minorities, Willingly Ambitious at Work, Still Feel Excluded

Many employees are willing to work themselves up the chain, but minorities particularly feel they encounter extra challenges along the way, a study shows.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

October 19, 2012

While multicultural employees are more likely than their white counterparts to say they are willing to do whatever it takes to climb the corporate ladder, they continue to feel excluded in the workplace, a new study reveals.

Half of Asians and 42 percent of Hispanics indicate they are “willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top,” compared with 31 percent of whites. About 35 percent of African-Americans express such eagerness, according to findings from a report by the Center for Work-Life Policy, "Vaulting the Color Bar: How Sponsorship Levers Multicultural Professional into Leadership."

As the face of the U.S. workforce continues to look increasingly brown (whites currently make up 71.7 percent of the workforce), employers will need to address feelings of disparity — real and perceived — in hiring and retaining their best talent to compete in an increasingly global economy.

 

(RELATED: Jury’s Still Out on Approach to Increasing Diversity on the Hill.)

Many black, Latino, and Asian workers say they feel shut out at work, in part, because companies have yet to make people from all ethnic groups feel comfortable. Forty-five percent of Asians say they’ve had to hide their true self to conform to the company’s style.

One black executive likens his workplace experience to a stage. “The corporation for me is a theater, and I try to remember to stay in character,” he notes, according to a Bloomberg report. For fear of being stereotyped as the angry black person, some employees hesitate being direct and assertive, qualities generally viewed positively, leading to what some scholars have termed “bicultural stress,” the story said.

Even more challenging for employers is that a fifth of Latinos and a third of blacks say that a person who looked like them would “never get a top position” in their company. Such attitudes are not without merit: 40 percent of blacks say they have experienced discrimination at work, compared with 5 percent of whites.

Having sponsors, defined by the study as leaders who advocate that staff be given opportunities to showcase their talents, increases the level of satisfaction on the job for people of color. Under the sponsorship model, more than half of blacks say they are satisfied with his or her rate of advancement, contrasting to only 35 percent of blacks without such mentors.

In addition, multicultural executives are more likely to say they feel an obligation to help workers of their same gender or ethnicity than whites. 

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