Equal Opportunity: (Lack of) Diversity in the Workforce

The Atlantic recently published a story highlighting the racial stratification of the workforce in the United States. Accompanying this story was an article that looked at one specific racial group: white people. This article titled “The 33 Whitest Jobs in America” listed the 33 jobs in which nine out of 10 workers in these occupations are white. The info graphic featured in the story is below:


The author of the piece, Derek Thompson, goes on to point out that many of the jobs that made the list are skilled construction jobs, like electricians, perhaps due to historic racial discrimination in trade labor unions. This explanation for the list is interesting for several reasons. First, some may or may not be surprised to learn that the effects of past racism still linger in society today —  a rather jarring concept if one considers how the actions of current leaders of like organizations will impact the future.

I also wondered if occupations aside from those in the skilled worker category might also be related to discrimination over time. In the case of sales representatives, for instance, perhaps companies hiring these reps were hoping to appeal to a mainly white majority demographic and thought that hiring a sales rep who belongs to a minority group be unappealing to their target audience. Also, maybe chief executives are typically white because of companies reluctance to hire minority employees in general or preference for hiring white people. If this were the case, white people would then have more opportunities to move up the company ranks than minorities, simply because there are more of them employed.

Aside from these occupations, it’s interesting to consider other reasons why some of the less obvious jobs are on the list. For instance, veterinarians and EMTs/paramedics are included, but not doctors or surgeons, which are generally thought to be more prestigious and usually have higher salaries. Why aren’t there more minority architects or speech therapists?

The theories could go on and on, but the point of this article is perhaps not to analyze the reasoning behind each item on the list, but instead to consider how the smallest discrepancies between different racial demographics may result in some big consequences.


3 thoughts on “Equal Opportunity: (Lack of) Diversity in the Workforce

  1. Great topic. It would be interesting to examine wages broken down by race and gender– an intersectional approach, as it were. For instance, today, a Latina makes 55 cents for every $1 that a non-Hispanic white male makes.

    Further, even within a racial group, there is discrimination. For instance, Matthew Harrison, a PhD students at the University of Georgia wrote the following, “We found that a light-skinned black male can have only a bachelor’s degree and typical work experience and still be preferred over a dark-skinned black male with an MBA and past managerial positions, simply because expectations of the light-skinned black male are much higher, and he doesn’t appear as ‘menacing’ as the darker-skinned male applicant.”

    Link: http://www.franklin.uga.edu/news/articles/794/Skin_tone_educational_background_African_Americans__jobs.html

  2. It’s very possible that the reason for “white dominance” across such a variety of jobs is because we’re looking at this from a race perspective when it’s possibly more a urban vs rural distinction. Perhaps millwrights are mostly white because there’s a geographical skew in the millwright industry. For example, if all the millwright positions of the U.S. were concentrated in predominantly white areas then naturally white Americans would dominant the millwright profession as well. Just a thought!

  3. While I agree that “past racism lingers in society today,” I am troubled by the lack of statistics, research methods and verifiable data that accompanies this *Atlantic* article. Research of this nature demands oversight, verifiability and replication, and nothing associated with this article seems to suggest that it has undergone sufficient research scrutiny. Additionally, the job cohorts identified are random at best and manipulative at worst as we – the reader- could literally play the game of “what about medium engine mechanics.” In sum, I think the author’s point is good, I just would have ditched the accompanying data and gone for a qualitative feelings and emotions OpEd.
    —Hapless Blogger

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