Making meaningful connections with colleagues can go a long way toward positively impacting one’s career, but it’s not always easy, especially for minority professionals. Making small talk across racial lines is tricky, and some minority professionals are hesitant to share personal details about themselves. They may worry about sharing stereotype-confirming details, and as one Black professional explains, “I don’t feel safe sharing information that might later be used against me.” Scholars of diversity in the workplace suggest three areas of improvement for addressing the racial gap in social connection. First, they say structured social events with a focus on common work goals can ease the pressure of small talk or cocktail party-style interactions, and structured review criteria can help prevent biased evaluations of minority professionals who may not always be engaged at informal get-togethers. Secondly, they explain that a learning orientation, in which people ask “open and curious questions” about colleagues who are different from themselves, communicates the value of difference and creates social connection. Finally, the scholars note that mentorship programs, including coaching and sponsorship, can help support and promote the social connections required to climb the ranks in an organization.
Following Georgia State’s failed plans to increase faculty diversity between 2011 and 2016, the university has established a “new committee specifically designed to manage diversity among faculty instead of letting the problem fall between the cracks of a larger plan.” The new committee plans to address the issue with a three-pronged approach: 1) launching an initiative called the Pipeline Project to encourage diverse students to become professors; 2) providing resources for search committees to combat implicit biases when hiring diverse professors; and 3) establishing the Next Generation faculty program, aimed at strengthening the school’s academic innovation with the help of more diverse faculty hires. According to Jessica Siemer, SGA Academic Affairs Committee Chair for the Atlanta campus, “the problem…is not in blatant racism, but in “inherent biases that come with people.”” Other professors say the issue of diversity does not pertain to them specifically, and raise concerns about funding for faculty hires.
The issue of diversity took center stage at this year’s Oscars, as Jordan Peele became the first Black person to win Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, Rachel Morrison became the first female cinematographer to receive a nomination, the Mexican culture-inspired Pixar film Coco won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, and A Fantastic Woman won Best Foreign Language Film, featuring trans actress Daniela Vega. Many still say the Oscars have a long way to go, however, particularly when it comes to representing women and the Asian American and Latinx communities—not to mention building on the budding Black presence in the film industry, because “the fact that we are still talking about firsts in 2018 means there’s a lot more that needs to be done in our community as well,” as activist and #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign told CNN.