Working From Home Poses Hurdles for Employees of Color
Without the networks and encounters that offices provide, companies must foster the visibility of Black and Hispanic workers, diversity experts say.
Nelson D. Schwartz
The New York Times article, “Working From Home Poses Hurdles for Employees of Color,” quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant
Tina Shah Paikeday on the unexpected advantages that virtual meetings can provide for people of color in the workplace. The article is excerpted below.
Kimberly Bryant, the founder of the nonprofit group Black Girls Code, recalls the spontaneous encounters with other people of color around the office that gave her a sense of belonging as she forged a career as an engineer. The wave in the cafeteria, the smile in the elevator, the nod in the hallway — for Ms. Bryant, “all would lead to connections that were instrumental in terms of my success.”
Those serendipitous occasions are just a memory, a casualty of the pandemic and the shift of tens of millions of employees from office settings to working from home. It’s also one way in which the rise of the virtual office places special burdens on people of color, according to diversity and inclusion officers as well as many employees.
The unexpected encounter may have been replaced by the formal geometry of the Zoom square, but not all experts consider that a bad thing. Tina Shah Paikeday, who oversees global diversity and inclusion advisory services at Russell Reynolds, the headhunting firm, thinks there might actually be some advantages to it.
“Most minorities are left out of informal networks and might not have been invited out for drinks or lunch,” said Ms. Paikeday, who is of South Asian descent. “The Zoom meeting is intentionally planned, and managers feel very intentional about inviting everyone.”
“It’s a great equalizer, and it creates opportunities for affinity group within large organizations,” she said. “It could end up being a good thing for minorities.”
Other diversity and inclusion officers concur with Ms. Paikeday, and emphasize that with leadership from the top, the virtual office can be designed to embrace all employees.
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