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Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended?

How does discrimination in the workplace manifest itself and what can you do to change any subconscious discrimination that may be at play?

Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

By Mariela Dabbah

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended? Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended?

The latest flurry of women being named to high positions is welcome news.

In the last few months we’ve seen Janet Yellen become chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Mary Barra take the helm as the first female CEO of GM, and Melissa Mark-Viverito step in as Speaker of the New York City Council. Unfortunately, this great news has a seldom-discussed downside. It creates the illusion that there’s no longer need for companies and organizations to make an effort to address discrimination in the workplace. That opportunities to rise to the top jobs are available to everyone regardless of gender or background. That you only need to want the job badly enough to get it.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable?

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play? Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play?

A recent study by Catalyst confirmed that feeling like the “other” at work eventually impacts an individual’s behavior. It begins with a real lack of access for people who feel racially/ethnically different. For example, people who feel different than others at work are assigned less senior-level mentors than those who don’t feel different. (58% of women who felt racially/ethnically different had mentors who were CEO’s or senior executives, as compared to 71% of women and 77% of men who didn’t feel different.) Chances to get plum assignments diminish when someone lacks senior-level mentors who can offer opportunities, and the likelihood of career advancement decreases as well.  Over time, people who feel different than their work colleagues start downsizing their career aspirations. In general, women are more likely than men to downsize their aspirations (35% compared to 21%), but this difference is even larger for women who feel racially/ethnically different (46%) and even more pronounced for those with multiple dimensions of “otherness,” (for example, a Hispanic woman.) In addition, being a mother resulted in the downsizing of career aspirations being even more pronounced.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable? Read all about it!! Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable?

So what might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead (seek senior-level mentors who can become sponsors, for example) is in reality something different. Catalyst’s report concludes that fewer opportunities for those with multiple dimensions of “otherness” may be what’s harming their aspirations. In other words, an organization’s lack of mechanisms and strategies to guarantee that every high potential has equal access to a successful career track is what’s failing, not the lack of employees’ aspirations.

Not surprisingly, the report showed that women who felt racially/ethnically different were least likely to be at senior executive or CEO level in their organizations (10%, compared with 16% of women who didn’t feel different.)

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play?

As someone looking for change, whether an HR practitioner or a professional woman feeling the impact of this reality, there are several things you can do.

1. Start by asking questions:

How are mentors matched with high potentials?

How can your company ensure access to high-level sponsors for all high potentials?

Are your ERGs leveling the playing field for people who feel as “others” or are they unknowingly  perpetuating discrimination in the workplace?

Are there effective metrics in place to track the progress of all high potentials, including those with multiple dimensions of diversity?

2. Print Catalyst’s report and bring it to work. Compare your numbers with those in the study. Organize rounds of candid conversations with all stakeholders to review and change any policies that negatively impact the career opportunities of your talent.

What might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead is in reality something different. Don't miss out. Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

What might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead is in reality something different.

3. Implement an experiential program where those in the majority get to feel “other” for a little while. Nothing like a personal experience to change people. For example, if you’re in a white male dominant company, send groups of two or three men to different multicultural women’s conferences. Or if the majority speaks English only, sit them in front of a Spanish comedy for an hour surrounded by Spanish speakers without the chance to change the channel.

These findings are not new. We’ve been discussing for decades the fact that people with diverse backgrounds (women more than men) have a harder time moving up the career ladder than their Anglo Saxon counterparts. This report gives us all reason to do our part to shake things up right now. Let’s not stay on the sidelines. Let’s take center stage and get it done.

Inspiring People: Promoting Women Advancement in the Workplace

Katherine Salazar, Associate Director, Consumer Healthcare Products at Valeant Pharmaceuticals

Katherine Salazar, Associate Director, Consumer Healthcare Products at Valeant Pharmaceuticals

We often look for inspiring people among the world’s celebrities. The truth is that we are surrounded by stories of inspiring people, many of which are not public figures. Katherine Salazar is the perfect example. Having moved to the U.S. at 8 years old from her native Mexico City, she has lived in six states before settling in Phoenix, AZ where she’s raising her son. Not only is she a fighter and a role model for women advancement in the workplace but she’s also one of the most inspiring people you’ll meet in her industry. With an MBA from Point Park University and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Walden that she just recently completed, Katherine is the Associate Director, Consumer Healthcare Products at Valeant Pharmaceuticals. She focuses on Hispanic Marketing and is making a big difference by approaching her job with a deep interest in the community she serves.

What are some of the major changes you’ve seen in the last twenty years around women advancement in the workplace?

I started my career exactly 20 years ago in retail, when decisions were made in the golf course and women were not welcomed at dinner meetings (it happened to me!).  I have seen some change in women advancement in the workplace but it is twofold.  I am much more secure now about myself and what I can accomplish and that gives me the strength to approach my CEO with ideas and get approval to start new projects.  That sense of empowerment and accomplishment has helped me open doors to new opportunities I could not have dreamed of 20 years ago.  The industry is also changing and adapting to women leading at the highest levels.  More needs to be done to have a balance of men and women leading organizations, but at least I feel we are getting closer to parity.

As a professional woman, what are some of the biggest challenges you face in your job and how do you manage to overcome them?

My biggest challenge in the last year and a half has been work-life-balance.  As a mom, it is a constant challenge to ensure I give over 100% to my job and to my son every day.  I can honestly say that it is impossible at times and more so when I have to travel.  My hope is that my son can learn through my actions the importance of loving what you do and always giving it your best.  As for work, I hope they understand that while my mind is at the office, my heart is always with my son.

We find you to be one of the most inspiring people in the industry. What inspires you, what do you find the most satisfying part of your work?

The most satisfying part of my job is when my marketing efforts make a difference in my consumers’ lives.  I am very passionate about building cause-related marketing efforts that give back to the Hispanic community.  This, by the way, is the topic of my doctoral study.  At Valeant, through one of my brands, we have been giving a percentage of sales to a non-profit organization that helps Hispanic students enter college and graduate.  We also give away scholarships, and when I learn the stories of the recipients, I feel proud of the work I do.

What advice do you have for women advancement in the workplace? Any particular suggestions for those who have unusual or challenging career goals?

Don’t take no for an answer!  I started my marketing career when someone told me I couldn’t do it.  A boss I had 12 years ago gave me a challenge looking forward to seeing me fail, as he had.  To his surprise, I succeeded and was promoted out of his department and into marketing.  Know what you want and fight for it with knowledge and hard work.  And remember, ask for what you want.  Don’t ever assume others above you know your goals.  Be vocal and be visible.

Give us an example of how you’re currently pushing for women advancement in the workplace.  What are you doing to help women fulfill their career goals?

I am a chapter leader of the Women’s Initiative Network at Valeant.  Our goal is to help women at Valeant reach their career goals through mentoring, training, and development.

Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now?

I have to thank my mom for teaching me how to be a strong woman and to not be afraid to fight for my dreams.  She has been the strongest female influence and example I have had in my life.

Women advancement in the workplace: Don't be afraid to fight for your dreams

Don’t be afraid to fight for your dreams

You can contact Katherine directly at: Katherine.salazar@valeant.com