The Outsiders

A recent Catalyst report on the experience of “otherness” in the workplace turned up some dismaying findings, especially for women of color.

Catalyst researchers surveyed 2,463 MBA graduates working in the United States, one-third of whom were women. They wanted to look at how people who felt different from the dominant group fared in terms of their opportunities, advancement, and aspirations. A few of the findings:

Of those with mentors, women who felt racially or ethnically different were less likely to have senior-level mentors than other groups. Only 58 percent of women who felt racially or ethnically different had senior executive mentors, compared with 71 percent of women who did not feel different.

Women who felt racially or ethnically different (29 percent) were nearly twice as likely to perceive a “great” or “very great” negative impact on their career due to a lack of visible projects as women who did not feel different (15 percent).

Feeling different seemed to shrink a woman’s sense of possibility: among women who felt racially or ethnically different, 46 percent said they were likely to downsize their aspirations, compared with 33 percent of women who did not feel different.

Managers, the researchers say, can make things better by coming up with metrics to ensure that those outside the dominant group have equal access to high-profile projects; encouraging senior-level employees to mentor people who are different from them; and providing employees with opportunities to widen their networks.
The full report is available at catalyst.org/knowledge/feeling-different-being-other-us-workplaces.

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