It’s the subject of much Boomer handwringing and comedy routines: the boomerang adult. That’s the kid who on finishing post-high school schooling (or after a brief foray on their own) returns home to live with Mom and Dad.
Boomer parents are not imaging things. Their sons really are coming home to roost. And yes, it’s primarily a guy thing. That’s according to the U.S. Census, which found that from 2005 to 2011 the percentage of men age 25 to 34 living with their parents rose from 14% to 19%, but only increased from 8% to 10% for women of the same age.
If it’s any consolation to American parents, this trend is global. Young people in Europe, Japan, Canada, and other areas are taking longer to transition to adulthood. In Italy, 37% of men 30-years old and up have never left home. There are men in Japan pushing 40 still living at home. And reports from the UK show 25% of young adult males are still at home, compared to 13% of women the same age.
In a Salon.com piece that looks at this phenomenon, author, sociologist and a Johns Hopkins University dean Katherine Newman talks about her interviews with people in six countries in southern Europe, the Nordic states, Japan and the U.S. She explains some of the reasons behind this global trend.
Globalization and the recession are making it harder for new workers to enter the labor force, and the cost of housing is climbing. But other social and psychological factors are at play too. The result is a sometimes rocky, sometimes serendipitous experience for these families as they struggle to redefine adulthood and familial roles in the face of overwhelming global economic forces.
I’m glad that Newman realized that it’s more than economics keeping young people at home. There’s something else going on here and some of it’s cultural. Typically, young people in North American, Japan, UK, and the Nordic countries moved toward independence sooner than in other countries, like Spain or Italy. Newman talks of the cultural differences between countries. How a particular society describes this trend reflects cultural and social attitudes as well as political and governmental policies.
More than just an interesting demographic trend, this development is also an expression of multi-faceted cultural divisions – among countries, among generations, and between genders.
What Boomers believe is the normal transition to adulthood will soon be upended by the experiences of Millennials and Generations X and Y. Depending on where they live, parents from differing regions and countries will welcome, decry, or simply accept the return of their “adultsters.”
by Andrés T. Tapia —
Gloria Castillo is president of Chicago United, a racially diverse corporate membership organization, founded in 1968 in the aftermath of Chicago’s riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Its mission is to bring together diverse business leaders to improve race relations and increase access to opportunities for people of color in the Chicago metropolitan area. During her 7 years as president, Gloria has ushered in a 60% increase in the number of companies committed to developing minority talent pipelines. I’m privileged to call Gloria a close friend. Most recently she interviewed me at a CDO Roundtable she organized in Chicago, where she pulled out a dog-eared copy of The Inclusion Paradox and, as usual, engaged me in a stimulated Q&A with great questions and insights that then led to a enriching group dialogue with all who attended.
I invite you to check out Chicago United’s 7th Annual Changing Color of Leadership Conference and Bridge Awards Dinner. It’s a full day of thought-provoking and stimulating workshops and seminars led by well-informed leaders of diversity and inclusion. The day culminates with the Bridge Awards Dinner, where the Chicago-area’s most diverse group of business leaders gather on behalf of robust inclusion practices. The conference and dinner will be held on November 18, 2010 at the Hilton Chicago.
Take 1: Chicago United periodically publishes a “State of the Union” report on the health of the diversity talent pipeline in the Chicago area, and you are about to release the latest installment. What are the big headlines on the 2010 report?
Chicago United’s nationally recognized Corporate Diversity Profile (CDP) is a bi-annual survey that measures racial diversity specifically in the leadership ranks of large corporations, on corporate boards, and in executive level management. It is a benchmark for corporations to measure their progress in this area. It is unique in that, the 2010 CDP includes the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s comparative analysis of the impact of past recessions on employees of color.
Corporate Chicago has made significant strides in leveraging the abundant expertise and intellect of business people of color in its managerial and executive ranks. However, as the 2010 Profile reveals, there remains much room for improvement, especially given the setbacks dealt by the recent recession. This recession has dealt a blow to diversity and inclusion as the pipeline of people of color has been thinned by demotions and pay cuts. The pipeline was an indicator of positive movement in the 2008 CDP.
Also, the Fed’s historical recession data highlights that diverse communities continue to bear a disproportionate brunt of economic woes compared to whites. In the last 3 recessions, minorities, primarily African-Americans, have suffered the greatest unemployment burden relative to whites. An analysis of employment prior to the recession 2008 and the mid-recession 2009 indicates that African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts regardless of educational attainment.
Although there was only a slight gain in the Chairman/CEO office, Chicago’s most progressive corporations also named diverse professionals to key roles in both national and global operations. Based on the responses to the survey, it is clear that the intent is still in place to make greater use of diversity and inclusion in the face of the global war for talent.
Take 2: What have been the most significant headlines over the last 8 to 10 years?
Minority firms are nearly 20% of all firms, but they receive less than 3% of all sales and receipts.
D & I has moved from being “the right thing to do” to a business imperative. The payoffs are greater satisfaction of executives and non-executives, retention of key talent, expanded multicultural markets, and enhanced R&D and innovation.
Take 3: One of Chicago United’s commitments is to increase economic opportunities for minority-owned businesses in Chicago, and with Chicago United’s help, the city became a leader in revenue generated by minority-owned businesses. In recent years, however, a number of other cities have surpassed Chicago in this area. Why do you believe this is so, and what can companies do to diversify their supplier base?
Other urban markets have provided intentional corporate support for minority business in their local area over the last 2 decades. Equal effort has been lacking in Chicago. While many Chicago-based corporations have robust minority business development programs, often they do not measure or track their local spend versus a national spend. This puts our Chicago based MBEs at a disadvantage when competing with companies that build scale with the support of their regional corporations.
The entire state of Illinois must do better in growing, attracting, and retaining minority-owned businesses. This requires a proactive commitment by the public sector and the private sector to grow these businesses. As the leader of a business organization, I work most closely with the private sector. Based on Chicago United’s work with its member companies, I know two things:
- First, large companies agree that MBEs can meet and exceed the expectations they have of their business partners. Our proprietary research has shown that.
- And second, large companies that are committed to the Chicago United Five Forward Initiative, our plan for regional economic growth through development of MBEs of scale, have increased their spend with MBEs despite the sluggish economy.
Companies must continue to look for and create opportunities to partner with qualified local MBEs. Additionally, they must maintain sound, constructive communication with them if their partnerships are to succeed. In return, companies will realize more innovative solutions to business challenges, cost savings and more by leveraging MBEs.
Take 4: One of Chicago United’s successful strategies has been to bring together diversity leaders and senior managers to collaborate. What does this collaboration look like?
Chicago United’s mission is to close the gap between race and business by fostering a candid discussion of the issues that hinder business growth and successful cross-cultural collaboration. To meet that mission, we provide programs that not only bring people together at the diversity and inclusion discussion table, but also drive results. Here are some examples of our results-driven advocacy:
- The Corporate Diversity Officers Forums regularly engage 40 corporations in Chicago to share best practices and provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and relationship building, tapping into the knowledge of Chicago’s diversity leaders.
- The Chicago United Employee Network Group Forums have served as an opportunity for leaders of employee network groups (ENGs), human resource professionals, and members of senior management to share information, strategies and best practices around issues like organizing employee network groups; leveraging ENGs for professional growth and development; and the role of ENGs in corporate America
- BoardLink connects emerging leaders of color from corporate Chicago with local nonprofit board opportunities where they will make important contributions to the community while enhancing their skills and expertise for future leadership roles in their careers. In 2011 with support of the Chicago Community Trust, Chicago United will offer nonprofit governance training delivered by the Center for Non Profit Management at the Kellogg School of Management.
Take 5: As a Latina executive, what is one of the biggest challenges you share with other minority women in corporate America? And what message do you have for companies on how they can enhance outreach to Latinas?
In this current economic environment when Latinos overall and, Latinas specifically, have suffered significant job loss and underemployment, it is critical to earn the trust and loyalty of this important workforce segment. That means, articulating a clear career path during the on-boarding process is critical along with ongoing development and leadership assignments. Recognition of individual achievements, but as part of a team environment, is also important. Recognition in a more public way appeals to our communal nature as well as positions the Latina as a leader in an environment where “the look” of leadership is changing. Finally, the Latino population is a young population with young families. The flexibility demanded by family life is particularly important to Latinas. A commitment to excellence coupled with flexibility is a powerful combination to build loyalty and retention.
by Andrés T. Tapia —
With Barack Obama in the White House, it seems like race would no longer hinder African-Americans who are on the job market. But according to The New York Times, there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to hiring.
Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. But strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of 2009, as the recession dragged on, was even more pronounced for those with college degrees than those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.
According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 was nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4% compared with 4.4%.
Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers continue to have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50% fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names. A more recent study, published this year in The Journal of Labor Economics found white, Asian, and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did.
Black job seekers interviewed by the Times conceded that race can be beneficial in some cases, particularly with companies that have diversity programs. But many said they sensed that such opportunities had been cut back over the years and even more during the downturn. Others speculated there was now more of a tendency to deem diversity efforts unnecessary after Barack Obama’s triumph.
Recession Affects All Generations Economically; While Impact Varies, It Heightens Intergenerational Tension
by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research
Negotiating generational differences in the workplace can be tough. Today’s economic recession makes relationships between generational groups even more complicated.
Many Boomers feel like they have had the rug snatched out from under them. Their home equity values have plummeted, and their retirement savings have dwindled. Now, many remain in the workforce not because they can, but because they must. A significant number who have left the workforce are seeking their way back. “Middle Boomers,” those between the ages of 52 and 58, face the biggest difficulties. According to a Walletpop article, many of these Boomers are delaying retirement from age 65 to age 70—and 85% of those planning to delay retirement have been hurt financially in the recession. The biggest pain for Boomers is not necessarily the rate of unemployment, but the length of time unemployed. Members of this generation take on average 22 weeks to find a new job, compared to only 15 weeks for those aged 20 to 24, according to USA Today.
Although they spend less time in the unemployment line, many more Millennials are also finding themselves there these days. According to U.S. News and World Report, unemployment hovers at 10% for the general population, but averages a whopping 20% for those between 16 and 19 years old. Unpaid internships are on the rise. College graduates are waiting tables. The same report cites evidence that a low starting salary can follow someone throughout the early portion of his or her career. During the 1981-82 recession, graduates who found employment earned an average of 25% less than those who began work during good economic times. The earnings gap often persisted up to 15 years later.
Millennials enter the workforce with more economic pressures than preceding generations, particularly because of the debt they’ve incurred. According to an article in USA Today, two-thirds of young adults in their 20s carry some debt; this same age group tends to be late to pay off loans, too. While credit cards are part of the problem, the fastest growing group of debtors are those owing $20,000 or more in student loan payments.
With the relative lack of media coverage about them, one might assume Generation X is weathering the recession just fine. In fact, however, Gen Xers are suffering for the second time. Many of them first entered the job market during the dot.com era, when jobs were plentiful—but then suddenly vanished. Now, just as they’ve settled into homes and established their families, they are hit hard by the current recession. According to MSNBC, this generation is the first to go largely without pensions and other job securities long enjoyed by Boomers.
Given economic insecurities, employees of all ages are tense, frustrated, on edge. When they begin to think the younger generation is hot on their heels, older workers become tense. When they and their friends fail to find summer jobs because post-retirees have taken them, younger workers become tense. When they can’t visualize career growth because they know the people above them are delaying retirement, middle-aged workers become tense. Employers can address these economy-based concerns by approaching hard decisions with compassion. When workers must be let go, employers need to show as much compassion for remaining workers as is practical—remembering that top talent can and will leave if dissatisfaction is allowed to fester. Finding flexible solutions, such as across-the-board pay reductions in lieu of layoffs, demonstrates that employers care and are willing to share economic pain.
by Andrés T. Tapia; Research by Susan Welch and Leonardo Sforza, Hewitt Research in US and Europe —
A massive demographic tectonic shift is rattling Europe — its unsettling tremors reshaping the European Union’s human geography; the aftershocks splintering European notions of egalité, fairness, and nationality; the fear of a cataclysmic population earthquake polarizing the citizenry.
The first set of waves of a tsunami of change crashing against Europe’s shores looks like this: while the European population, due to is rapidly aging workforce is declining, 80% of its population growth in the past decade has been due to immigration which slowed down but not stopped the population slide. The Telegraph reports that 0ver the past 30 years, Europe’s Muslim population has doubled; it is expected to double again by 2015. By 2050, 20% of Europeans will be Muslim. Eastern Europeans have flooded Western Europe as the EU has reduced restrictions on the flow of labor within the Continent.
While Academic research suggests immigration’s net effect on the economies of EU countries has been positive, immigrants arriving in search of work are triggering a polarization of attitudes by the native born. They now often find themselves the targets of a new wave of resentment that threatens to derail the self image many Europeans have of being grounded in the soil of the Enlightenment.
As I prepared through research and interveiws for the keynote address I delivered at the World Diversity Leadership Summit-Europe in Vienna earlier in March, it was clear that a perfect storm of rising immigration rates and declining economies brews throughout the European Union. Overall, unemployment in the EU has risen steadily, from 7.5% in 2008 to 9.5% in 2009. Latvia and Spain have been the hardest hit, with unemployment reaching 22% and 19% respectively.
The counterwave to the rising tide of outsiders is showing up in various forms. The BBC News reports that tensions between native-born workers and immigrants have steadily grown.
Statistics published by the Italian government blame immigrants for rising unemployment. Spain recently launched a program to encourage unemployed immigrants to return home. Polls show British citizens cite an influx of immigrants as a leading cause of unemployment. In Germany, a new citizenship application has been denounced as a “Muslim test,” designed to keep that immigrant group from growing further. In 2005 Paris experienced rioting by its Muslim-based immigrant population; today, France, 9% Muslim, is seeking to ban headscarves in various public venues. Switzerland, currently 4% Muslim, has banned minarets on all new construction. In the Netherlands, nearly 5.8% Muslim, the murder of a Dutch filmmaker by a Muslim in 2004 is still a rallying point for anti-Muslim feeling.
The EU has taken steps to help ease the situation, issuing both the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive, adopted in 2000. The directives require member countries to build support structures that allow legal support against discrimination. These regulations not only serve to offer protections but they also have become a rallying cry for the many, many Europeans who despite changes all around them, are committed to diversity and inclusion.
Employers who do buck current scapegoating trends to pursue business savvy diversity and inclusion efforts find themselves in good company–successful European companies such as Danone, Sodexo and Accor have been leading the way in recent years. In 2008 anticipating this time, Siemens CEO told the Financial Times that the management in his German-based company was “too German, white, and male.” They and other leading companies see that their futures lies in being able to embrace and practice a much fuller and complex diversity and inclusion approach.
The World Diversity Leadership Summitconference, hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Finance and attended by 300 leaders from corporations, government, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and which at one point had 30,000 hits on its live video web stream, had the stated goal of “Leveraging Global and European Diversity in 2020.”
The tsunami of change is inevitable. Which are the companies and countries that do what it takes to ride it rather than be swept by it?
by Andrés T. Tapia; research by Susan Welch and Leonardo Sforza —
VIENNA — “Pressure is building against the glass ceilings, glass cliffs, and career labyrinths that women in Europe continue to face,” says Dr. Elisabeth Kelan, Assistant Professor at King’s College in London and a leading scholar and author on gender and generations. At this past week’s World Diversity Leadership Summit hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Finance and where I met Dr. Kelan, several of the speakers and many of the attendees, three-fourths of whom were women, echoed the sentiment.
When it comes to eliminating gender inequalities, Europe’s record is as varied as the people groups who live there. Back in the 1970s, it was Sweden who pioneered the “equality in government” movement, requiring at least 40 percent of its MPs to be women. Similar laws followed in Norway, Denmark and Finland. Once Scandinavian women began assuming more positions of leadership, a ripple effect began to be felt elsewhere. In Austria today, more than half of the country’s senior ministers are women and women outnumber men in the Spanish Cabinet.
Despite these advances, I personally have witnessed many situations where the dearth of the presence of women in leadership forums has a distinct retro feel. Did I just step into the 1950s? The women I talked to at and outside the conference concur but many sense that the moment to demand change has come. The contradictions have become more blatant and the pipeline of highly educated and career experienced women is as strong and robust as it has ever been.
The clamor is rising that despite more college-aged women than men complete upper and postsecondary education European women , on average still earn 15-18% less than men in comparable jobs. The gap is widest in Estonia and Cyprus, where men earn 25 percent more than their female counterparts. Furthermore, in every age group more men than women are employed, and women are more likely to be employed part-time.
As is always the case, women’s disadvantages in the workplace are linked to other disadvantages. Women spend less time pursuing leisure activities than men, and more time doing household chores. They stand a greater chance of living in poverty. And although women in Europe tend to outlive men, they also report more longstanding health concerns.
The mood at the World Diversity Leadership Summit in Vienna, was one of, how shall I say it, cynical hope. Cynical about the men in power being willing to do much about the gap, but hope that a growing diversity movement fueled by the rise of highly educated and ambitious women and supported by a growing body of legislation can close the gap.
As a keynote speaker, I joined in with 200+ participants in brainstorming stategies to most effectively “recruit and manage diverse talent by 2020.” Some European employers are coming to understand that they can do more to close the gender gap, and that they will benefit significantly if they do. A recent study by the European Commission found that Europe would see a 30 percent increase in GDP if the employment gender gap can be eliminated.
Consider these encouraging signs:
- The European Union’s “European Strategy for Jobs Growth” set a goal of 60% employment for women by 2010; as of 2008, 59.1% of women were employed.
- In 2006, Norway passed legislation requiring the boards of all public companies to include at least 40 percent women by 2008, which has resulted in revitalized and more cosmopolitan leadership. At least half a dozen other EU countries are considering similar measures.
- Successful companies in Europe are promoting women in leadership. Sodexo, Deutsche Bank, and Novartis are all examples of corporations who have become convinced of the business benefits of women in leadership and increased their already existing commitments to help more women enter positions of power. Recently, Paris-headquartered Sodexo CEO Michel Landel declared publicly at an event I attended in New York City that 25% of executives’ bonuses are tied to achieving diversity goals especially one that states that 24% of the top 300 leaders will be women within the next few years. Currently 19% are. In defending against accusations of using quotas in setting gender representation goals, he replied, “We set goals for every business objective. This is no different.”
- There is a current campaign “Close the Gender Gap Campaign” by the European Commission’s Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities entity. Here’s an ad from the European edition of Newsweek. It contains a link to the Commission’s web page dedicated to the cause: http://ec.europa.eu/equalpay
Despite these good news of these advances, the economic crisis of the last two years threatens to slow down progress. According to the European Commission:
“Recent analysis of national responses to the crisis confirms the risk of downgrading the status of equality policies or reducing budgets allocated to these policies. Some gender equality measures have been cancelled or delayed and possible future cuts in public budgets may have a negative effect on female employment and on the promotion of equality.”
Despite this warning, given the energy at the WDLS conference and the various legislative initiatives the push for closing the pay gap should yield results. At Hewitt offices in Europe we see increased requests from companies for help with assessing if they have gaps and, if so, how to close them.
The bigger challenge lies in seeing greater promotions of women into managerial and leadership positions. “Until the profile of the ‘ideal worker’ is named and challenged for being based on the preferred characteristics of white males,” says Dr. Kelan from King’s College, “women as well as people with different racial backgrounds will continue to fall short of being considered.”
In my last post I offered five ways businesses are finding that the world is upside down. Here are five more changes of historic proportions transforming the economic, political and social landscapes in which we do business:
#6 To have a disability is to be differently abled. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans (54 million) has some form of disability, making this the largest minority group, and an increasingly vital sector of the workforce. As I discuss in The Inclusion Paradox, the U.S. Department of Labor has found that more young people with disabilities are graduating from high school and college. And according to the Job Accommodation Network, workers with disabilities have performance and retention ratings comparable to those without disabilities.
#7 Women are losing fewer jobs than men in the recession. According to USA TODAY, men lost 74% of the 6.4 million jobs erased between December 2007 and June 2009. Partly as a result of the shrinking male-dominated construction and manufacturing markets, women became a majority in the U.S. workforce for the first time in 2009.
#8 Corporate Social Responsibility is about giving AND receiving. Companies around the globe are recognizing that diversity and inclusion are not only social values, but business values–vital to sustained, long-term profitability. Case studies of Bank of America, IBM, Allstate, Sodexo and other corporations tell this story again and again.
#9 White men must be included in diversity efforts. Businesses who successfully leverage diversity as part of their strategy to remain profitable have come to understand that white men are also members of a nuanced cultural group, and that they are integral to helping diversity efforts succeed. Consulting firms such as White Men as Full Diversity Partners, as well as the successful diversity efforts of companies such as Georgia Power and Coca-Cola bear witness to this trend.
#10 Green is the new black. As consumer attention begins to shift more toward environmental concerns, companies are increasingly “going green”. Even more significant, many companies have discovered that there are solid economic incentives for reducing waste and moving toward more sustainable business measures. By “going green” companies have already succeeded in reducing costs and increasing sales.
How is your company responding to these monumental changes? I invite you to respond on this blog with your comments and questions. And if these topics interest you, follow me on Twitter as well, where this list first appeared in abbreviated form.
Tap the Power of Global Diversity to Reinvent Yourselves, Economy — Urgent Message to Graduating Students
by Andrés T. Tapia —
I recently joined diversity executives from IBM, PepsiCo and Wal-Mart on a panel at Wake Forest University’s Schools of Business. The message to students at the 2010 Marketing Summit was clear: As globalization advances, the old rules in business don’t apply. Your biggest challenge is going to be pushing yourself to see things anew–again and again and again. And that means knowing how to see and capitalize on diversity.
“Diversity goes beyond race and gender,” said PepsiCo’s Chief Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ronald C. Parker. “It’s about innovation, collaboration and agility. In our careers we need to press the reset button regularly. Reinvent ourselves every 3 years.” Ronald C. Glover, IBM’s vice president of diversity and workforce programs for IBM took the metaphor even further, telling students to “hit the reset button every 18 months. Maybe every day.”
Esther Silver-Parker, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart, urged students not to make the mistake of staying in a “mirror image” mindset, assuming they can get the job done by gravitating toward those who look like they look and think like they think. Glover agreed: “The talent the world needs is everywhere now,” he said. “The world is less forgiving of those of you who can’t keep up.”
Perhaps one of the most provocative insights business students heard was Ron Parker’s idea that recessions are the economy’s reset buttons–pushed when a stagnant “system mired in excesses, inefficiencies and misaligned priorities” needs to be purged. Visionary business leaders who see and think diversely–who are willing to press their own reset buttons–are needed to help restart the economy and keep it fresh.
The panel was moderated by Wake Forest’s Dean of Business Steve Reinemund, the only former Fortune 100 CEO who currently heads a top business school. During his six years as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Reinemund implemented a broad range of business strategies that analysts credit for much of the company’s financial success — as exemplified by a 50% increase in Pepsico’s share price during his six-year tenure. But Reinemund, who made diversity and inclusion a key business imperative at Pepsico while CEO, believes that economic success did not just come from the financial and product strategies he implemented. In his final press conference as he retired from Pepsico he answered the question of what he felt would be his greatest legacy for the company: creating a culture of inclusion he answered without skipping a beat. Now he is bringing both his keen business mind and passion for diversity to attract a more diverse body of business students.
Reinemund’s success, as well as the panelists’ insights, underscores the message of The Inclusion Paradox that I shared with students: The world is not flat; it’s upside down. Celebrating and understanding differences is no longer enough. You have to know how to leverage those differences.And in upside down world, where the old rules don’t work anymore, what new solutions can you offer that will hit the reset button in how we do business and engage our talent?
by Andrés T. Tapia — Race relations continue to undergo profound shifts as the first ever African American US president is about to complete one year in office. Are things better or worse? The answer is both. Understanding this is essential to be able to better manage diversity in these transformational times.
Evidence of better is fueled both by the powerful imagery of a black commander-in-chief showing up daily in the news and by shared difficult economic times. Worse is evidenced by the rise in hate crimes, a significantly polarized political environment with racial undertones, and the fact that for many minorities many things don’t seem to have changed much.
Let’s just take a look at a couple of recent news stories telling these two diverging tales. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times’ “A Racial Divide Is Bridged by Recession.”
During the housing boom, Henry County, a suburb of Atlanta, had its share of racial tension as more and more blacks joined the tens of thousands of others pouring in, creating a standoffish gap between the newcomers and the county’s oldtimers.
But the recession has begun to erase those differences.
Blacks and whites have encountered one another in increasing numbers recently in the crowded waiting rooms of the welfare office and at the food pantry, where many of both races have ventured for the first time. Struggling black-owned businesses are attracting the attention of white patrons. Neighbors are commiserating across racial lines.
… “There used to be a lot of racial tension here, but everybody knows that we need each other to survive this recession,” said Eugene Edwards, the president of the Henry County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “People now, they seem to be starting to care for one another.”
But on the other hand, here’s another recent New York Times story that shows that little seems to have changed, “In Job Hunt, Even a College Degree Can’t Close the Racial Gap.”
There is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.
College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent.
…A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.
These two articles pull us in different directions in terms of whether race relations have improved. They are further evidence that in these upside-down times we’d better get better at Both/And Thinking and analysis and less trapped in the current either/or mindset dominating the airwaves and blogosphere. Not only is it less polarizing, it is also more helpful in determining what is going on and in so doing be better able to develop solutions that more realistically take into account paradox rather than submerging one truth to prove the other.
A good place to explore this issue and make the discussion on inclusion relevant is through diversity training. How are you applying Both/And Thinking in your organization?