Apr 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

A cultural crisis in America's workplaces

Illustration of a corporate worker exiting through a door
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Across jobs and industries, Black employees have more negative views of the state of diversity and inclusion than their colleagues, according to a new report out today by career site Glassdoor.

Why it matters: Negative perceptions of workplace culture have a business cost. They can affect performance and productivity and ultimately lead to turnover.

"It's a crisis if employees of different cultural backgrounds have a different lived experience in the workplace," says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor and lead author of the report.

By the numbers: As companies have ramped up diversity and inclusion efforts in the aftermath of racial justice protests, Black employees' perception of workplace D&I has actually fallen.

  • Black workers' average rating for the state of D&I across scores of companies on Glassdoor fell from 2.6 out of 5 stars in 2019 to 2.5 stars in 2021. At the same time, the average D&I rating among all other employees rose from 2.8 stars to 3.1. stars.

"Sentiment among white employees goes up because there seems to be a perception that we’re doing more, while sentiment among black employees goes down," Chamberlain says. "Many black employees are seeing that the questions are being asked but that change isn’t happening."

  • "This is why just looking at overall averages can be damaging for companies," he says."White voices tend to dominate the conversation on diversity and inclusion simply because of the numbers."

There are certain industries and jobs where the perception gap is highest.

  • The three industries with biggest gaps between Black workers and workers of other races — primarily white — are accounting, consumer services, and travel and tourism.
  • The three jobs with the widest gaps are registered nursing, customer success, and program manager.

The gaps in these fields are troubling because not only are they the widest, but they're also in job categories that are projected to boom in the post-pandemic world, like nursing, travel and customer service.

The stakes: These perception gaps lead to pay gaps, Chamberlain notes.

  • Poor workplace culture affects Black workers' mental health and can get in the way of promotions and push employees to leave, which then interrupts career trajectories and widens the racial pay gap.
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