The Center for Talent Innovation (wow… this exists!) has just published a new report — “Vaulting the Color Bar: How Sponsorship Levers Multicultural Professionals Into Leadership” — finding that people of color, from African Americans to Latinos and Asians, feel they have to put up a front in the office. “More than 35 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics, as well as 45 percent of Asians, say they ‘need to compromise their authenticity’ to conform to their company’s standards of demeanor or style,” The Harvard Business Review reports. “Forty percent of African-Americans — and a third of people of color overall — feel like outsiders in their corporate culture, compared with 26 percent of Caucasians.”
The conclusion that the article draws is that while companies are good at diversifying the staff, real change to the corporate culture isn’t happening. An Indian executive says she was told her accent was “too stuffy.” African-American workers say they’re conscious not to come off as the “angry Black.” Additional research conducted by another group, CTI, shows that when you “compromise your authenticity,” it leads to a lack of loyalty and a tendency for people to leave their jobs.
Of course, this, in and of itself isn’t news. People of color didn’t need a study to gather this information. They live it. It’s something we’ve covered on Madame Noire extensively. Nonetheless, attaching the anecdotal to something scientific (even it it’s quasi-scientific) is a positive.
Company leaders need to open their eyes and look around. The demography of the U.S. is changing. So are the demographics of their employees, their customers, and their corporate partners. Where businesses may not have felt it necessary to do any more than offer a little lip service to diversity before, they need to actively address the issues their corporate culture is facing. Any company that isn’t tapping into the innovation that comes with nurturing a diverse staff is missing an opportunity that will, undoubtedly, lead to negative consequences for that business.
The first consequence will be the loss of good people. Fortunately, there are companies that know what’s up. If you feel you’re not being fully accepted at the company you work with, you should feel free to pursue other options. Keep your eyes peeled for new opportunities. Maintain your professional networks. Ask around about the culture at other companies you’re interested in. And make sure your resume is always up-to-date so you can act when something looks appealing.