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Black Women Face Higher Turnover Rates

Black women in teams with a greater number of white peers may have worse job outcomes, according to a study from the Harvard Kennedy School. While companies focus on racial diversity in hiring practices, the workplace’s racial composition can greatly impact retention.  

The study includes 9,037 inexperienced new hires in a large, elite professional services firm from 2014 to 2020, focusing on the effect of the racial makeup of coworkers on employees’ turnover and promotion. Researcher examined employment data and records over seven years for Black, Asian, Hispanic, and white women and men, finding an 8.9% gap in turnover between Black and white women.  

Further, Black women are the only group whose turnover and promotion are significantly impacted by the race of their coworkers. The study found a 14% increase in the share of white coworkers is associated with a 10.6% increase for turnover among Black women.  

“Black employees, and particularly Black women, reported numerous ways in which interacting with their majority white coworkers negatively influenced their participation, and identified challenges related to their task assignments and performance evaluations,” the researchers write.  

The study also finds that Black women initially assigned to whiter teams report fewer billable hours and more training hours and are more likely to be labeled as poor performers in their first performance review. Turnover rates for Black women decreased when working in groups with more Black colleagues.  

Researchers concluded that retaining Black employees in elite jobs is as important as simply hiring them, calling for an increased focus on the long-term impact of staffing and promotion systems that rely on peers, shedding light on how systems can perpetuate racism in the workplace

Read the full study here.  

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