Let’s open with some encouraging statistics. According to research conducted by American Express and recently published in a CNBC article, black women are starting businesses at the fastest rate of any group. Since 2007, the number of firms owned by African-American women has grown by 164%.
This movement might be a response to management frequently overlooking women of color for promotions in the business sector, despite their qualifications. There’s only so much you can take when you have all the knowledge, all the hustle, and a rock star work ethic, yet you are repeatedly shown that your contributions don’t quite measure up.
Dr. Amera McCoy is an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist and owner and founder of McCoy Consulting LLC. This organization offers a suite of services for businesses, including advisory, lending, and coaching workshops for employees. Dr. McCoy is a diversity and inclusion specialist who is often asked to help companies address the underlying issues with culture, especially promotion, salary, and performance management for employees of color.
Dr. McCoy, a black businesswoman, has experienced promotion struggles first-hand, and she says the rules of the game are quite illogical. You would think that exceptional skills and proving yourself by being buried in work would be a ticket to the ‘fast track.’ McCoy confirms this logical way of thinking is superseded by ‘who you know’ and the opportunities you take to engage with the right people.
In her experience, McCoy states, “Most employees who gained promotions had more opportunities than positive attributes, but their ‘potential’ led them to the next level.” It’s a sad day when bosses dismiss actual results and a superior work ethic, and they reward the ‘potential’ to acquire these talents instead. McCoy explains that management often overlooks qualified candidates, saying they are anti-social or having too much going on at home. And she identifies this specific group as the black women she has known who deserved promotions but were continually in the wings and not on the forefront.
But Dr. McCoy sees a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, McCoy feels employees of color, especially women, can benefit in the wake of its destruction. “COVID-19 can change our past narrative of the pay gap and correct many wrongs women and minorities have experienced throughout their careers.” And she goes on to identify four ways business owners can make COVID-19 a chance to positively impact the world-of-work for minorities.
For many companies, a rehiring process will eventually occur once the pandemic is over. Dr. McCoy asserts that this is the perfect chance to update job descriptions and pay scales to align employees when they return. The pay gap between men and women only exists because men come in higher and achieve bonuses and promotions more often. It’s not because they are more skilled and do better or more work. Minorities generally always walk into corporate jobs in entry-level roles. Their pay is lower, and their advancement is slower, keeping the gap wide. But if a realignment process were to occur, people could be rehired in positions they deserve with pay higher than when they left.
Restructuring roles and responsibilities
Dr. McCoy offers that many companies probably needed to restructure roles and responsibilities before the pandemic, but the massive task was too daunting to imagine. Now is an opportune time to combine or restructure job roles and expectations since COVID-19 has probably already done part of the work for you with lay-offs and work-from-home situations. Again, this is perfect timing to abandon the old system and begin closing the pay gap.
Dr. McCoy suggests leveraging a pay scale that reflects the business goals to 100% operational. When examining the job descriptions, make sure to include management roles. Too often, the main problem is at the top, and it trickles down, contaminating the company goals. Post-COVID-19 is a perfect time to restructure job descriptions and reassign personnel to the right roles, even management.
Hire a recruiter
Recruiters have a specific role; they screen people based on their capabilities, not their past earnings. Men often enter into company roles with less experience and more money because of their presumed role as breadwinner. Those days are long gone. Many women in today’s society are breadwinners, too.
The post-COVID-19 period can level the playing field for women and minorities by allowing companies to rework their payscale to eliminate the gaps. Additionally, if you need to hire, this is the best time to have an unbiased recruiter do your screening to acquire new people at a salary based on their skills and experience, not previous pay.
Hire a minority to your Board or Senior Management Team
Dr. McCoy says companies with glass ceilings for women and brick walls for minorities create a company legacy of outdated business practices. Now is the time to change the trajectory of your business’s legacy by tearing down barriers that perpetuate an unfair status quo. For every minority who gains an upper-level position they deserve, a door opens for more of the same. Minority children who see their parents working in positions of authority will believe doors can open for them and look for and find those doors in the future.
Make a negative a positive
For the businesses that hire Dr. McCoy because they need her inclusion expertise, she offers Post-COVID-19 as a time to make your move. Make a move to restructure your job descriptions and pay scale. Restructure your employees into the positions they deserve, and hire new employees on a level playing field using a fair pay scale. COVID-19 has done enough damage to your business, so now is the time to make a negative a positive that will sustain your business far into the future.