It is seemingly common knowledge that diversity in the workforce vastly misrepresents the demographics of the United States population. Over the past few years news headlines have pointed out the deficits in representation of minorities in certain industries, such as the white-male dominated tech sector.
What is less known, and certainly does not make headlines often, are the industries who are excelling at attracting minorities. Part of why this may not be discussed frequently is that the data reiterates some sad truths about what the color of your skin determines for your ability to attain higher-paying work in more “respected” industries. Also, many of the industries which hire more minorities are seen as the more “traditional” categories for certain demographics.
For example, in the 50’s everyone assumed that women occupied home care, and teaching positions more than men, but have we grown out of these antiquated perspectives, and what does the data say about these “golden era” ideas? The surprises in the numbers are most revealing, and create more questions, perhaps, than answers.
A closer examination of the “employed persons by detailed industry, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics holds some of these answers (BOL, 2016).
What industries have the highest rates of diverse employees?
Considering that 50.8% of the total population is female (US Census), all of these top ten female-dominated listed industries way outpace the national demographics in terms of “diversity.” Although almost all of these fall into the “traditionally female” trap, social assistance, veterinary services, and optometrist offices were top categories for bringing women into the workforce that may not be viewed as “traditionally female.”
These deep seeded gender issues of identity, and equality go back decades, and activists have fought these “norms.” In order for change to happen, though, one must understand the scope of the issue at hand. What is it about these industries that attracts women employees, and what practices do these industries have in hiring that can be learned and perhaps replicated in other industries looking for tipping the diversity scale?
The veterinary field carries some perspective.
“Why are there so many women veterinarians?” : In part because educated women are drawn to professions that are providing flexibility to combine work and careers, Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin said in a lecture at the American Economic Association in Atlanta. The increase of women in various professions since 1970 has been spectacular. But why do highly educated women enter some professions and fields more so than others?
“Women are 77% of all newly minted veterinarians, but they were a trivial fraction 30 years ago,” she noted… “but in other cases the decision is largely governed by a desire for career and family and involves a trade-off between earnings and aspects of the job such as work flexibility over the year, week and day.”
Women are trading pay to get workplace flexibility, she suggests, and are drawn to professions where it’s relatively easier to do that. “The goal of ‘career and family’ for college women is a relatively new one historically,” she said. For previous generations, there was a choice — sometimes career OR family, sometimes family THEN career.” (WSJ, 2010).
It can be established then, that if industries lacking in flexibility, may be less likely to attract women. Are fields that by nature are less flexible doomed to a lack of diversity, or are shifts possible? These are all questions which leaders need to consider as they move forward with diversity recruitment initiatives, and are important for individual job seekers to understand as they consider their careers.
When it comes to minority groups relating to race and ethnicity, Black or African Americans, Asians, and Hispanic or Latinos make up less of the workforce in most fields.
The general United States Population is made up of roughly 13% Black or African American individuals . It may be harder to identify industries that are “traditionally black,” since the civil rights movement made significant headways in the biased language surrounding race a couple of decades ago, and although some may still carry stereotypes, most would not probably attribute any particular field with Black or African American employees.
Larger stereotypes do exist still, however, putting minorities in general into stereotyped assumptions that this segment of the population is more likely to seek and attain lower-paying positions which require less education and skill. It may surprise these “biased” believers that the data reveal that nursing, investigation, security, and messengers have relatively larger representative bodies of Black or African American employees. As we ask with Women, what is it about these industries that has enabled higher penetration of this minority group into the workforce?
As with Blacks, Asians and Hispanics or Latinos face similar barriers and opportunities. Asians make up 5.6% of the population , so segments with 16-40% Asian employees far exceed the national population breakdown. Examining where Asians exist in the workforce may offer a unique opportunity to provide insight into industries currently hiring more minorities.
Hispanics or Latinos make up the largest group of racial or ethnic minorities, with 17.6% of the national population pie . With such a large representation of the population, it is surprising that the penetration of Latinos into many “more respected” industries requiring education is still shockingly low.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “data show that Hispanics (45 percent) and African Americans (43 percent) generally have lower college attendance rates than Whites (55 percent) or Asians (73 percent).”
The intersection of education, also related to socio-economic status, and workforce representation is only a small factor which attributes the responsibility of diversity on the workforce to the employee, not the industry or company. If re-focused on industry responsibility, one might find that cultural norms within certain industries may be responsible for likelihood to hire Latinos, for example. What is it, for example, that Landscaping businesses do to attract so many Hispanic or Latinos? Can their ability to attract this segment of the population be replicated in other industries, as was asked with women and the veterinary field?
And so we are left with more questions than answers, but perhaps a direction that is less considered but possibly more fruitful than shooting blindly in the dark when . Researchers, recruiters, and industry leaders would be wise to consider the industries that experience high penetration rates of minority employees, and find patterns which may offer ideas that could break barriers.