Racial Discrimination at the World Bank

Historically, black employees have many times been sidelined from various institutions based on the unwarranted focus on their color as the more ‘weaker and primitive’ race. This discrimination has also been tagged speciously on the general ‘black culture’ towards any credibility in the work place.

Black workers have unjustifiably been presumed to be only ‘fit’ as subordinate employees and could almost certainly raise eyebrows in the workplace whenever spotted in a relevant senior position. Racial discrimination is not only an historical American problem in the workplace, but it is now a global issue which has taken root in people’s attitude from different perspectives.

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However, since the passage of various Civil Rights Acts around the world, most companies and organizational entities now seek multicultural populations by looking for the leverage of talented leaders in order to meet their respective objectives. By doing this, they hope that these leaders will help them comprehend on how to appeal and get in touch with these populations since diversity is quickly becoming a business imperative for most organizations (Moreno 5).

This has also led to the implementation of various policies and programs that will enhance the recruitment, growth, and advancement processes for ‘people of color’ especially within the organizational structures. Such steps have seen major conglomerates such as Aetna, Avon products, American Express, PepsiCo, and many others around the world being led by people of color.

However, despite these signs of corporate improvement in diversifying personnel and promoting workers without a regard to their race or color, black employees are still struggling to surmount the effects of racism in the workplace since white employees are still governing most of these multinational corporations.

In addition, leveraging on an employee in a diverse population always end up with a particular race being victimized through work termination as employers tend to match the contact race of an employee to that of the customer (Clark 4)

The persistent reports and complaints on race discrimination is just an indication that although major corporations may not be carrying out palpable racism any more, other subtle contours of racism have quickly mounted to the platform to further make it increasingly harder to eradicate. Modern day racism can emerge in organizations especially when a legitimate authority figure gives out a business directive that will eventually initiate discriminatory actions.

Racism can also take an aversive shape in a way that makes people embrace significant egalitarian values and distinguish themselves not to be prejudiced while having a cataleptic negative feelings and beliefs regarding black people (Clark 3). In other words, aversive racism allows people to uphold their self-image as unbiased and a person of color would usually be more apt not to receive the benefit of the doubt from a white recruiter in an aversive racism scenario in a job recruitment exercise.

Additionally, aversive racism occurs if a prerequisite that complies with a particular decisive factor operates to encumber the constitutional equality rights of any racial group member. Although this definition may not confine itself to circumstances where a particular principle has an undesirable impact on the people of color, it does have an unpleasant impact that would fall within the conceptual obstruction of the equality rights being enjoyed by members of any racial group of their fundamental human rights.

Racial discrimination can usually be harassment in the form of negative slurs, epithets, intimidation, stereotyping and stigmatization, threats, innuendoes, or even cultural and jokes which eventually leads to one being denied access to equal opportunities in relation to employment or career-growth (Moreno 8). A racial bias environment also creates and tolerates a hostile or distasteful working condition which impedes one’s work performance while adversely affecting their employment and career opportunities.

It also manipulates Human Resource decisions to be made on a basis that does not look upon the professional qualifications or merit which would later affect a staff member’s career in relation to salary, assignments or re-assignments, grade setting, performance reviews, merit augmentations, rewards, promotions or even recognition (GAP 8). Either overtly or covertly, these behaviors generally constitute to discrimination which makes the present Human Resource practice even more challenging if not audacious enough.

Human resource managers and professionals are regularly given the responsibility of developing, conversing, and implementing designed policies that will ensure a discrimination-free workplace with the impartial selection and promotion of employees.

Although this procedure should have a prioritized prevalence on ones abilities, skills, and accomplishments, some conflicts usually do arise between a company’s adopted policy on diversity commitment and its undertakings when faced with the harsh reality of diversity.

Therefore, this becomes even more perceptible with the changing alignments in Human Resource Management (HRM) strategies and internal practices that are in liaison with an organization’s goal in order to effectively implement a business strategy.

As HRM is now taking a global outlook to address financial, logistical, and personal concerns in its activities and structures, a high level of racism and reluctance is usually observed in the acceptance of these vital assignments by some prospective expatriates.

Most organizational HRM policies are still being influenced by historical, social, and environmental trends to significantly alter its policies for a person of color to gain justice or even promotion into management. The incessant difficulties that most corporations do experience while adapting a global strategy, culture, or even the administrative customs of either the foreign mother company or the host country only shows that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It also demonstrates that the more traditional homogeneous and mono-cultural organizations are no longer effective in the increasingly globalized marketplace. Through a case study, we are going to focus on the unfortunate illegal effects of racial discrimination on HRM policies since it eventually affects the competitive status of a seniority system towards the provision of personnel decisions, promotions, layoffs, and transfers.

A Case Study on the Discrimination of Black Employees at the World Bank

The World Bank is a premier international development institution that annually lends billions of dollars to African, Asian, European, Latin America, and Caribbean countries. Such an enormous and effective development lending usually depends on the precise comprehension of the challenges being faced by the populace in different cultures, since it will help to better design programs and policy solutions that represents conditions and available possibilities (GAP 7).

Therefore, the Bank tries hard to include a diverse work force in order to enrich its talent base and also reflect its international membership that comprises 166 countries. This kind of diversity is quite important in bringing a wide variety of perspectives that tolerates the organization’s objective on poverty reduction.

However, although the Bank has always maintained that they are committed to diversity beyond the hiring process, it has continuously been accused of racial prejudice in its promotion, retention, and recruitment practices since its inception (Chima and Wharton 3).

A Washington Post article written by William Raspberry over more than thirty years ago also confirms this primordial level of racism that is mainly directed to black employees who are also very few at the Bank (Livingston online). In addition, a diminutive opportunity for rising mobility did exist for those who were not working there.

At the time of its publication, the article further adds that no black divisional chiefs were to be found out of the 160 employees scattered all over the Bank. Although Randall Robinson, a former executive director of Transafrica rubbished these figures, there is a continuous infraction involving the Bank’s rhetoric on diversity and its actual practices. This is further elaborated in a recent report by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) on racial discrimination at the Bank.

A Report on Racial Discrimination of Black Employees at the World Bank

Although there have been numerous reports of discrimination at the Bank, a 2009 GAP report on the same issue proved to be stupendous. The comprehensive but intimidating report stated that the Bank’s structures and practices proved futile in retaining and staffing people with an African or black origin. The report also says that black Americans are predominantly underrepresented at the Bank as only four black Americans held proficient positions amongst a staff which has over 3,500 professional.

This still shows a comparative decline in representation from the appalling levels stated in Raspberry’s report more than thirty years ago(Livingston online). Furthermore, data collected from the Bank also showed that professional black employees working on the Bank’s operations were inexplicably narrowed-down to positions in the African region.

The Bank’s situation on this issue is quite daunting since they do not regularly gather any data with the allusion of racial identity which further makes racial disparity patterns seem exceedingly imperceptible. Even though through passports the Bank may boast a database of employee’s demographic information, it does not obliterate the fact that most whites who have an African origin are given high positions while most African- Americans are still hold low-ranking positions in the Bank (G.A.P 7-8).

The World Bank recruitment and promotion implementation processes have customarily escaped public scrutiny until recently mainly due to the protection from the U.S. affirmative action and equality statutes, in addition to the exempted requirements of comparable legislation designed to encourage inclusiveness in the countries they operate in.

The World Bank is usually held accountable to an internal judicial system which is similar with most intercontinental institutions that are exempted from national laws. This ‘judicial disguise’ may question the Bank’s intent and capability in addressing racial prejudice especially when it is brought about by failures in its structural systems.

This is also asserted in the GAP report as it revealed that the Bank’s internal administrative complaint structures and processes did not meet the required stipulations in handling racial injustices (G.A.P 8). Although it seems that some meaningful measures have been taken by the Bank, many employees are still concerned with the Bank’s justice system capability of fairly reviewing cases concerning racial bias (Livingston online).

Interviews with former employees, disgruntled employees, and sitting staff members in the GAP report also reveals that a significant number thought that the Human Resources decisions was capricious and lacked transparency due to the employment process being left almost entirely to direct supervisors.

Although there is an unusual large number of American staff due to the Bank’s headquarters being in the U.S, the limitation and absence of a black American workforce is quite striking. Most African-Americans also believe that the Bank pays no heed to traditional black educational institutes in the U.S while also being recruited less than other people of black origin (G.A.P 8).

This simply translates into Africans, African-American, and those of black decent being denied their career aspirations and opportunities while being treated inequitably on the foundation of their skin color.

This problem is undeniably serious as it destabilizes personnel morale and performance while it lowers productivity and the much needed effectiveness within the Bank (Livingston online). This is also supported by the GAP report in which staff who originated from the African Sub-Saharan region thought that the ingrained discrimination and stereotypes impinged on their career right from the recruitment process.

They also reiterate that there was a low entry-level grade set for black employees which is comparable to other staff with equal qualifications and if selected, they spend too much time at each level of grade than those employees who are not black. Even if they ‘survive’ the recruitment process, black employees would still find out that securing a work reassignment to a dissimilar position is a thorny issue, especially if it’s of a high hierarchy(Chima and Wharton 10).

Their situation is even made worse with the lack of support from the HRM department or managers in the event they attempt to leave the Africa department. This evidently contradicts the promotion of most black staff members even though their work performance calls for it and instead, they undergo through an impractical standard of a work evaluation process which intentionally lowers their performance reviews with a demotion intention if they were to question the process at all.

This makes most black employees to walk out on the Bank if they thought they have been biased upon in a promotion verdict since also the HR personnel usually reiterates the thought of them leaving especially if they despised the way the Bank treated them ( G.A.P 12).

Most black employees assert that the HR Department is usually familiar with the ongoing discrimination being levied upon them, but took little measures towards preventing or mitigating it.

Their hopes for a fair look into the injustices are frequently being dampened due to the fact that black employees are underrepresented in both the Bank’s middle and upper levels of management, which means that a few of them will have the authority of challenging potential bigoted actions by personnel in regards to assignments, promotions, and rotations (Chima and Wharton 15).

This level of under-representation leads to an apparent lack of ‘black mentorship’ which eventually results to the lack of support in tackling racial inequalities. The dire situation on racism in the organization was also to the open after the GAP released its findings when racial slurs aimed at black employees were written on the Bank’s hall way walls despite any official announcement on the issue being made.

Racial Diversity Strategies taken by the World Bank

Together with being spurred by the GAP report, the World Bank has implemented some highly discernible measures towards raising awareness on the issue in recent years. In order to eradicate racial discontent, the Bank established a Racial Equality program that would oversee complaints of prejudice and also putting up new laws on the agenda that will help curb the racial menace.

The Bank has also formed an office for a Diversity Program which all employees are entitled to while also assembling a task force for this purpose (G.A.P 15). While professing a zero-tolerance policy towards racial discrimination and also approving an anti-harassment policy, the Bank is keen on seeing that no form of inequity goes unnoticed.

However, the laws, procedures, and the implementation process which exemplify the proscription of racial discrimination are somewhat delayed and the crucial measures which will improve the preservation of black employees are desirably absent (G.A.P 4). Despite this set-back, the Bank has laid down some departmental diversity targets that seek to improve and scrutinize the recruitment and promotion processes and decisions.

The Bank also has an inclusion strategy through the formation of the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Awards and Diversity Compacts in all VP Management Teams in order to achieve a demographic and numerically diversified workplace.

These programs are also aimed at providing peer-level resources to employees who undergo through discrimination, harassment, or any other depressing behaviors in the workplace (G.A.P 4). Also by enlisting businesses owned by minority groups into its internal procurement system, the Bank seeks to bridge the racial gap and uncertainty which has historically been ominous.

Also by legislating new rules in both its Primary and Persuasive law sources, the Bank’s administrative tribunal has been able to make an impact on decisions and rulings that involves racial discrimination and when deciding on issues from time to time, the Tribunal Judges can seek help from outside organizations which have comparable statures. However, the World Bank is still struggling with the implementation of these measures (G.A.P 15).

Summary

This case study is not aimed at demonizing any racial group or organization but to highlight the appalling levels of racism which is still prevalent in today’s society. Racial discrimination is now become a predominant factor in HRM operations which has led to an ample view by potential black employees that their dreams, work, and merits would not be counted in a diverse workplace.

It also reveals how the issue of racial diversity can bring a dilemma for the people of the black race who are not traditional beneficiaries of corporate privileges and therefore have to differently negotiate their way up into the corporate thicketed seniority positions.

In trying to deal with the issue of racial diversity and equity in professional responsibilities, an overhaul is largely needed within an organization’s structures. However, in some cases, this would also mean reasonable surmises that will severely affect a particular racial group which in this case was people with a black origin who are still privy to corporate actions within HRM as they themselves as subjected to racism that is supposed to be alleviated by the diversity policies within the corporate.

Black employees usually exist on the sidelines of an organization’s power structures to possess neither race nor any high-ranking status. They are understudied in various academic researches relating to corporate issues where they have occasional being referred to be in a ‘corporate ghetto-hood’ that assigns them responsibilities concerning diversity.

The main purpose of this case study was to describe how hard it is for most black employees to negotiate diversity issues in a system that won’t let them do so but would rather conceal this unfortunate behavior while trying to manage it behind corporate boardrooms. This indicates that most victims of racial discrimination are usually left to work without a corporate commitment to diversity while forlornly negotiating racism and dealing with isolation in an already hostile environment.

Conclusion

Although the past thirty years has seen major efforts being made by the World Bank in studying and putting in place measures that will help eradicate racial discrimination, these steps will prove ineffective if its internal justice system is still failing to support those people who have who have undergone through racial discrimination and also penalizing the offenders who harass and discriminate.

The failure to enforce these set measures effectively will only see even the most progressive anti-racism and diversity policies been seen to be only cosmetic. Since the Bank represents diverse regions and cultures, this should also be seen in their staff instead of handling with rhetoric that won’t make sense if appropriate an action is not taken for discriminatory conducts and allegations brought by past and recent black employees and job candidates are not sufficiently examined.

Works Cited

Chima, Felix, and Wharton, William. African Americans and the Workplace: Overview of Persistent Discrimination. Web. n.d.

Clark, Donna. Discrimination Happens Without Effort: How Black Women Human Resources Managers Negotiate Diversity Issues in a Corporation. Web. n.d.

“Government Accountability Project”. Web. 9 Jun. 2009.

Livingston, Greg. World Bank doesn’t practice what it Preaches. Web. 28 Jul. 2010.

Moreno, Paul. Black Americans and organized labor: A new history. Louisiana, LSU Press, 2006. Print.