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SHRM board member David Windley discusses how unconscious bias can derail workplace diversity efforts.
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J.J. Abrams, director of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," is the latest, and most prominent, Hollywood player trying to diversify the industry. He’s announced that his production company, Bad Robot, will require that writers, directors and actors being considered for a project should “be at the very least representative of the country we live in. Which roughly breaks down to: 50 percent women, 12 percent black, 18 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian.”
(The New York Times)
For the second consecutive year, no minorities were nominated in any of the four Academy Award acting categories, prompting the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag—created last year to protest the lack of minority nominees—to continue to trend this year on social media. Abrams’ announcement was a response to that protest.
Sometimes, there are cultural impediments when minorities try to get a leg up in any industry. For instance, a patriarchal culture, conservative religious traditions, and the admonition to be “seen and not heard” are among the reasons some Hispanic women may experience difficulty excelling in their careers.
And then there’s the insidious—and difficult-to-confront—issue of “hidden bias” that prevents some people from getting ahead at work. Skin color, gender, age, height, weight, marital status—even a foreign accent—can imperceptibly influence everything from who gets interviewed to who gets hired to who gets fired. Hidden bias can affect the way people are mentored, how employees socialize with one another, who is given plum assignments and promotions, and much more.
Hollywood has another dragon to slay: Gender pay inequity. The issue made headlines last year when it was revealed that actress Jennifer Lawrence was paid significantly less for her role in "American Hustle" than her male co-stars—even though she’s the one with an Oscar. Despite stories like that, and despite extensive research pointing to a stubborn pay gap, a large majority of workers in seven industrialized nations mistakenly believe that men and women in their countries are paid equally for the same work, according to a new survey.
Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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