Racism in the workplace

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Talking about Racism in the Workplace

Dr. Patricia Arredondo and Dr. Courtland Lee

When we were in graduate school in the late 70’s and early 80s, there were three taboo topics that were never addressed in our Counseling and Psychology training programs. These were religion, sexual orientation, and race. Invariably, we had clients in psychotherapy who were of a visible racial identity, i.e., Asian, Black, and White. Intake forms rarely inquired about religion or sexual orientation signaling an invisibility of these social identities. Though some 40 years have passed, we know that conversations about race and racism in most settings are a challenge, however, it has become apparent that stories about racism are news headlines throughout the country. That is, we are all bearing witness to these reports about racial discrimination, law enforcement being called on a Black man suspected of some infraction, and the senseless assaults and murders of Black citizens. Though we may not be in Louisville, Minneapolis, or Chicago, racial discord and racism affect all of us. It is obvious that the country has entered a new period of racial reckoning that has spawned increased levels of dialogue.

There are two physical settings where individuals of differing and similar social identities are most likely to come together– classrooms and the workplace. We know that talking about racism at work requires courage and commitment to not have it be a one-time, often contentious, conversation, so we suggest a couple of approaches. 

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George Floyd

In Memory of George Floyd

Patricia Arredondo & Courtland Lee
AAG Senior Consultants

There are not enough words to describe the sentiments of sadness, outrage, despair, frustration, and anger felt by millions of people around the world in response to the recent murders of four African Americans—George Floyd, Breeona Taylor, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, and Tony McDade. The deliberate racist nature of these killings has laid bare a greater virus in the U.S. than COVID-19. We are not in a post-racial period as had been spouted following the election of President Barack Obama. In spite of his accomplishment in winning the presidency, he was insulted during his first State of the Union address and was subjected to subtle and not-so subtle racist jabs throughout his two terms. This pattern of disrespect, disregard, and discrimination toward Black and African American people is historic and constant—and it has to end.

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Finding Emotional Balance through Holistic Health Practices

Finding Emotional Balance through Holistic Health Practices

AAG continues to address concerns of individuals, employers, and organizations in the continuing and unpredictable COVID-19 era.  For essential workers, those working from home, and others being called back to their worksite, questions loom about how we are staying healthy—physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. When it comes to health, the conversations primarily are about physical health—how to recognize COVID symptoms, self-protective measures including face masks, social distancing, wearing gloves at the grocery store, and washing groceries. Recent articles, however, are also discussing mental health and behaviors that may signal a decrease in emotional balance and mental wellness.

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Loss of Work Identity

Loss of Work Identity—never imagined experiences in the COVID-19 Reality

By Patricia Arredondo and Kayla Byrd

In a society that touts meritocracy, many Americans have come to believe that going to work every day, perhaps even working 2-3 jobs to meet basic family needs and covering healthcare insurance, would allow them to experience self-sufficiency and autonomy. The emergence of the Coronavirus outbreak, an uncontrollable variable, is undeniably calling attention to not only income but also health, and questionably impacting levels of life satisfaction among all walks of life across a range of professional settings. Heads of households have been furloughed, college students cannot continue their work study assignments or part-time jobs, and more than 6.6 million are filing for unemployment. This is not the career and work scenario most of us ever imagined. In mid-April alone, according to the Department of Labor, 22 million are now unemployed.

The surge of collective loss being experienced at one time is producing more urgency for recognizing psychological needs that are met through having employment—our work identity. Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, known for his theory of identity across the lifespan described two of his stages as Intimacy vs Isolation (ages 21-39) and Generativity vs Stagnation (ages 40-65). These are exactly the ages when people expect to be applying their skills and education in meaningful ways. Interviews on social media sites underscore the sense of loss, confusion, frustration, and questioning about the meaning of work and work identity that many had not considered before.

“Many of the tasks employees are doing now were not imagined even weeks ago. People are becoming crisis managers, sanitation monitors and work-from-home coordinators. Meanwhile, workers in overrun government offices, hospitals, grocery stores, as well as those operating out of the public eye in supply chains, are having to find new ways of working that allow them to manage the onslaught of professional responsibilities they now face.”

-Article on theconversation.com (Cohen, 2020)

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Women in the Shadows

Women Working In the Shadows and the Coronavirus Threat

This blog was drafted about two weeks ago, following International Women’s Day 2020. In the interim, the global and domestic threat of coronavirus and its effects has become the daily headline with uncertainty looming in many sectors of the workforce. Considering that many of the lowest-paid employees in the service sector are further threatened with job loss, we decided to still post the blog on Women Working in the Shadows, highlighting the lived reality of many mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends.

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Black America

State of Black Talent in America

Guest Blogger: Pam McElvane, CEO & Publisher, Diversity MBA Media

I talk about this almost every day. It starts with my 17-year-old, reminding my gifted child who attends the top high school in the state, to be woke, be safe, and be careful so you don’t make a mistake that will cost you your future. Some would say, really Pam, isn’t that a bit much? Maybe, I’d say, but better safe than sorry.

I know the realities and I am not blind to what is happening socially in black communities around the world. The ‘me-too movement’ sustains among the GenZ’s (18-22 years) as they prepare to enter the workforce. If you think authenticity in the workplace is happening now, just wait until the boldness catches up (#me too in the workplace.com).

Companies today, regardless of size, are navigating 5 generations in the workplace. And the state of what each generation requires is as different as they come. While there are similarities within the generations, there are similarities among groups of color. But for this blog, I want to discuss Black Talent, the shrinking population in the workforce. We are not only making room for the Hispanic rise, but the replacement of the once largest minority in America.

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Inspirations for Today and Tomorrow: Embarking on a New Decade

For many years, I have sought out writings and proverbs that inspire, motivate, and provide wisdom in the midst of managing multiple priorities, particularly my daily work routines. Creating space to clear my mind is not a matter simply of closing my eyes; getting centered and re-centered must be intentional. To this end, I have found many inspirational writings that relate to women’s leadership, managing change, being optimistic, and finding common understanding in cross cultural relationships.

Historic and contemporary voices particularly of individuals who have transcended adversity and multiple life challenges, such as Nelson Mandela, serve to temper what I might consider to be a tough day I might have had. In this first 2020 commentary, I will share inspirations for today and tomorrow in the form of proverbs, philosophical thoughts, and reflections from a range of individuals. I hope these will be useful to you as you embark on a new decade.

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Latinx People in the Contemporary and Future U.S. Workforce—Debunking Myths with Facts

The end of another Latinx/Hispanic Heritage month ends on October 15th following special events and celebrations on campuses and in workplaces.  In this newsletter, the Arredondo Advisory Group (AAG) will focus on a set of facts about the heterogenous Latinx population that have relevance for employers and university administrators as they plan for the future.

The Big Picture

Since the 1990’s demographic projections have underscored growth for the Latinx/Hispanic populations based on immigration and childbirth. However, in 2000, a downturn in immigration began particularly from Mexico, the source of the largest percentage of Latinx immigrants. Current annual growth since 2010 is 2.0% down from 3-4 % in previous years (Flores, Lopez, & Krogstad (2019). Additionally, births to Latinas are down. Women, particularly of Mexican heritage historically have had the highest percentage of childbirths. That fell by 31% between 2007-2107 (Tavernise, 2019). The most important fact of these trends, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, is that the U.S.-born Latinx population is currently 67% and the foreign-born or immigration Latinx population is 33% (Lopez, Gonzalez-Barerra, & Lopez, 2017).

Compelling Facts for Today and Tomorrow

Most employers will argue that business success is about talent, competence, and fit, and for the foreseeable future, Latinx people will be contributors to business success. However, in the midst of a tense sociopolitical climate Latinx people are often portrayed in the media as primarily non-English-speaking immigrants or the “other”.  Accepting these images is a mistake for employers and institutions of higher education because there are compelling facts that indicate that this population cannot be ignored. Currently, Latinx people are approximately 18% or 60 million of the U.S. population as reported in the Community Population Survey (2017). It is predicted that by 2050, Latinx will be nearly 30% of the total population (Monthly Labor Review, 2015).

The fact that 67% of the current Latinx population has been born in the U.S., introduces other co-relating data points regarding age, English proficiency, education, the economy, professions, women in the workplace, and geography.

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Leveraging Cultural Competencies in Professional and Personal Encounters

by Patricia Arredondo* and Courtland Lee*

Cultural competency development is being discussed more often as an asset in organizations, “something” everyone should become good at and embrace. We describe cultural competency  as a skillset grounded in three domains of learning; these domains are increased self-awareness, new and enhanced awareness and knowledge about others, and the application of this awareness and knowledge to enhance workplace relationships, performance, self-confidence, and workplace climate. In the next sections, we will unpack each domain and introduce constructs that are relevant to leveraging cultural competency.

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The Invisible Types of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace and How to Address Them

By Yue Li, M.S., Doctoral Candidate in Counseling Psychology, Indiana University

When we talk about sexism and gender discrimination in the workplace, many of us may first think of compelling evidence such as the gender wage gap and the strikingly and disproportionately low percentage of women CEOs in the S&P 500 companies. Yes, it is old news that American women only make about 80 cents for every dollar that men make, and the situation has remained unchanged in the recent decade based on data from OECD in 20171(See Figure 1.). A report published in 2019 by the Catalyst Organisation2 continues to find that, while about 45% of the employees in S&P 500 companies are women, only 21.2% of the board members, 11% of the top earners, and 5.2% of the CEOs are women2 (See Figure 2).

However, the whole picture of workplace discrimination and sexism expands beyond the readily quantifiable measures such as salary and occupancy of leadership positions. Underneath these more than disappointing numbers, what is perpetuating the discriminatory practices based on gender at workplace? How is everyday sexism such as gender microaggressions experienced by average working women? How might employers and managers create a greater sense of organizational justice among workers of all genders and therefore a more affirming, growth-inducing, and innovative business? Political and social psychologists Sidanius and Pratto used their social dominance theory3 to illustrate oppressive experiences at the personal, intergroup, and system-wide level, which offers an excellent roadmap to understanding gender discrimination at work.

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