Could this guy lead your organization? Some of you might respond quickly by saying sure why not. There are others who would qualify their answer based on qualifications. The correct answer is highly unlikely, of fortune 500 companies only five have been led by an African American (one was a black woman) in recent years. When we see a person of color, especially a black male we tend to bestow onto them all the negative characteristics we’ve ever heard about black men. Conversely, white people are only judged by what we know about the individual.
In their books Dataclysm and Blink, Christian Ruddar and Malcolm Gladwell detail how race plays a role in all our personal interaction decisions. Ruddar the founder of OKCupid an online dating site discuss why African Americans fair better on all online dating platforms if they list they are half white. In fact, all people of color improve their chances of finding a date if they describe themselves as part white, except Asians. This is even true for blacks searching for dates from other black, males or females.
This bias toward the color of a person’s skin affects major purchases of goods, services and indeed employment. The black unemployment rate is more than double that of white Americans. African American unemployment is 3% higher than the Hispanic American unemployment rate. Hispanics unemployment is 2% higher that White Americans. The level of unemployment is based on comparing individual populations with the same skills and education levels. This does not account for those who have decided to work outside the tradition employment, working part time or started their own business. The highest number of business startups are people of color, more than tripling those of White Americans.
Timing is everything (see Timing Innovation) this 15 years old kid, grew up in the projects of West Dallas, before the ideological system known as trickle down economics. Trickle down economic is an ideological system that with lower taxes and increased investment, a business can produce more, increasing employment and worker pay. Although, the ideology had never been proven to work our economic policies makers for the last 30 years have insisted on using it. In the past 30 years, with wages suppressed, employment opportunities for low income people moving offshore and income inequality rising the neighborhood where he grew up was devastated. Low income areas historically suffer from inadequate schools which disadvantage kids when they enter into the broader workforce. Conversely, low income areas also provide the residence with grit, tenacity and unmatched people skills ideal for success in the workforce.
Gladwell discussed in Blink that our racial biases reside below the conscious level. While some of you said yes this guy could lead your organization, if you saw this guy’s profile photo you would unconsciously disregard him and move to the next applicant. This unconscious bias happens even when black applicants are more qualified than a white applicant. It is such a common phenomenon that you and I could reproduce these finding anytime and anywhere in America. Everyone denies he or she have unconscious biases, which is why they are so prevalent.
Research has found the same unconscious biases in the shareable economy like Uber and Airbnb. African American customers are turned down for Uber and Airbnb rental properties at unexplained rates. Prompting some African Americans to test the system with a White friend confirming the bias. Uber and Airbnb have acknowledged there is a problem, prompting entrepreneurs to form a competitive company Noirbnb. This is uniquely American, Uber and Airbnb European division does not show the same racially bias data. Which leads me back to my original question, could this guy lead your organization.
Both Dataclysm and Blink discussed how online employment search engines weed out ethnic names for more Anglo sounding names. Juanita is kicked to the curb, Jane given the grand tour. These search engines allow employers to unconsciously (or consciously) discriminate because of profile photos. Knowing that a profile picture limits an applicant’s chance of acceptance has led some companies to employ blind searches. Blind application search is when the names and photos are scrambled leaving only the skills and qualifications for employers to see. By choosing applicants before you see either their name or their photograph has increased employment opportunities for people of color and women dramatically where this practice is used.
Finally, there are no skills or qualifications which can depict who is a good leader. Leaders are not born in Ivy League schools they are forged out of the grit and circumstances of everyday life experiences. None of us know what we are capable of until we are given an opportunity to demonstrate our abilities. First comes the opportunity then we discover how to meet the challenge. It does not happen the other way around. Could this guy lead your organization, with that profile photo on LinkedIn? The data suggest he would not be able to get an interview.