Study: Workplaces Increasingly Segregated, Dominated By White Men

Mad Men office white men

Nearly 50 years ago the U.S. passed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing segregation and banning gender and race discrimination, and in so doing, it remade the country forever.

But on the score of creating a more equal and integrated workplace, how has the country actually fared? How much has really changed?

Not nearly as much as you might think, according to a meticulously-researched new book by sociology professors Kevin Stainback of Purdue University, and Donald Tomaskovic-Deveym of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Their book, Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private-Sector Employment Since the Civil Rights Act, analyzes data from 5 million private-sector workplaces from 1966 to 2005, and it finds that while upper management has become more diverse (with the number of white men in its ranks going from 93 percent to 54 percent), in many ways the workplace is still stuck in the "Mad Men" era.

Two major findings:
  • In spite of much hand-wringing in the media about the "decline of men," the truth is that white men still dominate the management ranks.
  • Workplace segregation, of both men and women and whites and blacks, is actually increasing in many sectors.

Employers "still expect [white] men to be in the managerial jobs," says Tomaskovic-Devey.


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Who Is Most Likely To Be The Boss

Race and gender still can work against you. White men are most likely to be in management positions, followed by white women. Black women are least likely. The data tell the story:
  • White men are 68 percent more likely to hold leadership positions than to be regular staffers.
  • White women are 28 percent less likely.
  • Black men are 53 percent less likely.
  • Black women are 73 percent less likely to be in leadership positions as compared to being regular staffers in the private sector.

What's the reason for this persistent inequality? Tomaskovic-Devey believes that attitudes are lagging behind the laws. When efforts are made to alter the character of the American workforce, it's seen as a threat to "everyone's sense of roles" and "what is right and proper" regarding race and gender.


Rise In Segregation In Some Workplaces

Surprisingly, some sectors have grown more lily white and all-male from 2001 to 2005, according to Tomaskovic-Devey.

Of 58 industries that he studied:
  • Seven -- including the airlines, railroads and mining sectors -- had a rise in gender segregation from 2001 to 2005.
  • Eighteen -- including transportation, lumber and leather manufacturing industries -- had an increase in racial segregation during that same period.

The rise of resegregation is most evident in higher management. "These are the jobs that are subconsciously worth holding onto, apparently," says Tomaskovic-Devey. And again, he says, the mechanism often has little to do with overt or even conscious bigotry. "We see this in studies of biases. People aren't aware of their own biases. And they get heightened when the stakes go up."


Most Progress Was Made Pre-1980, Now It's Slowed To A Crawl

The authors studied the "segregation index," which is the number of workers who would need to change jobs in order for blacks and whites and men and women to achieve parity. While this may sound wonky, this metric is actually critically important. What it shows is that from 1966 until 1980, there was steady progress, with the index declining 1 percent a year. But from 1980 on, progress has slowed to a crawl, with the index dropping at a miniscule rate of .01 percent.

The index now stands at 59. A score of zero would represent complete equality among the races that mirrors statistics of the general population, according to Tomaskovic-Devey.

To be sure, there are critics who would argue over whether an increase in the number of black workers is a reliable indicator of true social progress. But what is undeniable is that blacks were excluded outright from participating in the workforce before the civil rights era, and movement away from that America was fast at first, but has since dissipated.

Why? According to Tomaskovic-Devey, there's been a lack of presidential leadership. The push to increase hiring of blacks "lost steam" since Ronald Reagan's presidency, Tomaskovic-Devey said. The courts also raised the standard for proving that employers' discriminated; no longer was the perception of discrimination enough. Now, plaintiffs need to prove that employers intended to discriminate. There's also been less political pressure to advance women.

What Is Working?

Tomaskovic-Devey says workplaces that emphasize merit-based hiring -- focusing on educational credentials -- tend to have the least segregated workplaces. Do you see workplaces becoming more segregated, and what do you think is the reason?

Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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11 Comments

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Stephen

I think Michael makes a couple of very good points about what is probably a strong contributing factor.

* People should be hired on their ability and qualifications to do the job
* Funding for education in areas where people from minority groups are predominant has been cut so the children and young adults cannot get the qualificatiuon or demonstrate the ability

Equality, in my opinion, should be about equality of opportunity. Someone should have equal access to education, both academic and vocational, and on going training to develop and display their knowledge, skills and abilities. Ability to do the job should be the deciding factor, not how much money their parents had to provide them with more and better chances.

Another factor that I know is a concern for many of my Black (or African-British if you prefer) friends and colleagues is the dearth of positive role models for young people in general and young, black men in particular. It's great that the US has a Black president, but he can't exactly spend a lot of his time going into schools and talking to and inspiring the pupils or every race (maybe in 2017).

October 17 2012 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hemipristis

Media headline: "World Ends! Women & Minorities Hardest Hit"

October 16 2012 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hemipristis

oh here we go again.

October 16 2012 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ugha323a

When a woman wakes up in the morning, she wakes up in a house built by men. When she brushes her teeth, she turns on the water that was built and maintained by men. When she hops into her car, built by men, she drives to work over roads built and maintained by men. When she arrives at her office building, that was built and maintained by men too. When she has to have that heavy table in the conference room moved, so that more people can fit in, she calls men to do the moving. When she tests the microphone and finds it doesnt work she calls a maintanence man. Then when the meeting starts, she tells men what to do. Thats America today!!!!

October 16 2012 at 5:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
michael

As an African American male, it is easy to see the "racist/sexist" divide. It would seem that some respondants have a problem with attitudes being the cause. These people have no clue that they are a large example of the attitudes being spoken of. I find in interesting that right afted Affirmative Action took hold, school funding and emphasis in the inner cities where minorities mainly live, started taking a nose dive. Hence, the number of qualified minorities started nose diving as well. There was a question asked, a clueless question: Why should someone be hired just because of their race? First of all, they shouldn't. They should be hired because of their qualified ability to do the job. Second, why should anyone not be hired because of their race or gender? Lord knows this still happens daily. Are things getting better. A little. But a" little" is not "there", therefore a little is not enough. By the way, I am a Business Office Director, I travel the country going into hospitals and clinics helping them do battle with insurance companies, so i can say via fact that i have been in quite a few offices where i am be far the highest ranking African American there, and at times the only African american there. People, we need to do better.

October 16 2012 at 5:36 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
sgtwal

Segregation by race and gender can also be a result of the employee's choice of association and fear of sexual harrassment complaints. Given a choice people associate with people they share interests with and FEEL COMFORTABLE with. Watch any school or business lunchroom and see how the people divide up to relax. In many cases a mixed sex work area is a complaint waiting to happen and all too often it is the company or employer who takes the hit. Lawyers love those deep pockets don't they? A single sex area if at all possible reduces the risks.
Promotions based on sex or race are just plain wrong. This is a country of equal opportunity not equal outcomes. Baring some mental or physical problem anyone can excell if they have the drive.
As the previous posters point out some groups have simply made the choice to to make themselves unattractive to employers.

October 16 2012 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
n45

Another poorly though out article. Women are bombarded with the cultural of housewife with children and the finacially rewarding divorce. Freed from the necessity to work she can enjoy her role as consumer. As the media portrays it. All to make money. There are huge business interest in keeping men enslaved and women lazy. Too bad if you are poor. We do not care to help them anyway. After all bosses are going to hire and promote people who are "like: them not some alien.

October 16 2012 at 5:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
n45

Another poorly though out article. Women are bombarded with the cultural of housewife with children and the finacially rewarding divorce. Freed from the necessity to work she can enjoy her role as consumer. As the media portrays it. All to make money. There are huge business interest in keeping men enslaved and women lazy. Too bad if you are poor. We do not care to help them anyway.

October 16 2012 at 5:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to n45's comment
ugha323a

Women in the workplace was advanced by the Rockefellers, not because they felt women should work to round out their lives, but because they wanted to double the tax base for their nefarious govt. schemes.

October 16 2012 at 6:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
philips0811

This is such a typically liberal article/study. Assume the figures are accurate - what evidence do they provide to prove their "belief" that attitudes are to blame? Could it be, just possibly, that the far lower college graduation rates of black males are a factor? Why should someone be hired because of their race? It wouldn't work in the NBA or the NFL, and it wouldn't work in business. Attitudes? Actually, yes, I might blame attitudes the attitude that education and preparation is a stupid thing to do is a factor. The attitude that being Gangsta is the way to go might be a factor.

October 16 2012 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
wbearl

Management promotions and raises are not race or gender selective alone. I watch people selected for promotion because they were drinking buddies or hunting buddies. I had one boss who promoted based on your attendance and participation in his church. I have had bosses who want only "Yes" people around him. The good managers are the ones who promote based on a persons abilities and on their abilities only. Unfortunately those managers are far and few between and so is the success of their operations.

October 16 2012 at 1:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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