Layoffs are an unfortunate part of the business world. While they are often regarded as unavoidable consequences of economic downturns or industry shifts, there is another layer that is often overlooked: The disproportionate impact of layoffs on workers of color.
This is not just a mere coincidence. Instead, it is a systemic issue deeply rooted in historical disparities, unconscious biases, and structural inequities. So, why is this group more vulnerable? Dive in and discover the myriad reasons behind this phenomenon.
History Repeats Itself
To understand today's realities, we must glance back at history. Workers of color, particularly in the U.S., have endured centuries of systemic discrimination. From slavery to segregation, and then from the Civil Rights Movement to the modern era, people of color have been at a disadvantage. These historical setbacks have created a domino effect in opportunities and wealth accumulation.
Did you know that the racial wealth gap in the US, as of 2016, saw white families having nearly 10 times the net worth of Black families? This means that a worker of color, on average, lacks the safety net to weather economic downturns. If they lose a job, it is not just about finding a new one. Rather, it is about survival.
The ‘Last Hired, First Fired’ Phenomenon
This term might sound like a cliché, but statistics paint a stark picture. Many workers of color, especially during economic booms, are the last to be hired. When the going gets tough, they are often the first to be shown the door. This is not merely due to their recent joining. There is an underlying bias that workers of color are more expendable.
In fact, during the 2020 pandemic, Black and Hispanic workers in the U.S. faced higher unemployment rates compared to their white counterparts. For a community that represents a considerable part of the workforce. And that is a huge disparity!
It is a term you may not hear daily, but occupational segregation is the tendency for certain ethnic groups to be concentrated in specific job sectors. Often, these sectors are low-paying and lack job security.
A classic example is the concentration of Hispanic workers in agricultural roles in the U.S. When there is an economic hit, these are the roles that are most vulnerable.
Limited Access to Opportunities & Networking
Success in the modern workplace does not just depend on your resume. It is also about who you know. Networking plays a pivotal role in climbing the corporate ladder.
Historically marginalized communities do not always have access to influential networks. Thus, putting them at a disadvantage.
The Silent Sting of Microaggressions
Ever heard comments like, “You’re so articulate!” or “Where are you really from?” These are microaggressions: Subtle, often unintentional, discriminatory remarks or behaviors. In workplaces, they can chip away at an individual's self-worth and performance. Over time, these workers may be viewed as "not fitting in" or "not up to the mark," making them prime candidates for layoffs.
So, What's the Silver Lining?
The first step in rectifying any problem is acknowledging it. As the issues of racial disparity get more spotlight in the media and society, more companies are re-evaluating their practices.
Remember, it is not just about hiring a diverse workforce. Instead, it is about ensuring they thrive.