Bibliography of Reading on White Bias in Hiring

Ala Mar B
4 min readApr 27, 2022

Below find a bibliography of research on bias favoring Caucasians in the U.S. context of hiring. Despite the shortcomings in inaccurate decision making by homogenous teams and the accuracy and innovation of decision making by diverse teams, as stated by Eval Apfelbaum: “I don’t know of a single program anywhere in the world that is focusing on the potential blind spots of homogeneous teams. And I think that’s just not the narrative, because, in many industries, homogeneous teams are normal in terms of their frequency.”

Image by sergiovisor_ph via Pixabay

Why Diverse Teams are Smarter

By David Rock and Heidi Grant on 2016 Nov. 4 via Harvard Business Review
https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter

People from diverse backgrounds might actually alter the behavior of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, scientists assigned 200 people to six-person mock jury panels whose members were either all white or included four white and two black participants. The people were shown a video of a trial of a black defendant and white victims. They then had to decide whether the defendant was guilty. It turned out that the diverse panels raised more facts related to the case than homogenous panels and made fewer factual errors while discussing available evidence. If errors did occur, they were more likely to be corrected during deliberation. One possible reason for this difference was that white jurors on diverse panels recalled evidence more accurately.

The implications of this quote are truly scary to think about, given the convenient amnesia that Caucasians display when forgetting facts and failing to observe the biases that favor them, particularly when no People of Color are present.

The Problem with Homogenous Teams

By Evan Apfelbaum interviewed by Martha E. Mangelsdorf on 2017 Dec. 11 via MIT Sloan Management Review
https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/the-trouble-with-homogeneous-teams/

But how many leaders in organizations do you know who have thought, “Wow, what can we do about the problems of homogeneity? Where are the most homogeneous teams that we have in our organization, and what can we do to make sure that they are thinking really carefully and there’s some productive conflict?” I don’t know of a single program anywhere in the world that is focusing on the potential blind spots of homogeneous teams. And I think that’s just not the narrative, because, in many industries, homogeneous teams are normal in terms of their frequency.

In this interview, Apfelbaum recounts a number of studies that demonstrate that not only are homogenous groups inaccurate in their recollection and application of facts, they’re more likely to be more confident about the wrong answers they produce, since the lack of friction experienced within groupthink is (inaccurately) taken to indicate the accuracy of the wrong answer.

Why Diverse Teams are Smarter

Katherine Phillips interviewed by Scott Gardner on 2019 Jan. 29 via Colombia Business School and YouTube.

Interview of Dr. Katherine Phillips by Scott Gardner via Columbia Business School

In this interview, Phillips outlines factors that are important for garnering the benefits of diversity, including these:

  • Equal air time — one group of people should not be allowed to dominate the conversation
  • Unanimity rule — that is, everyone has to agree, since in a majority rules systems over populated by homogenous teams, there’s no incentive to listen to the minority.

Why Diversity Programs Fail

By Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev via the July-August 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review Magazine
https://hbr.org/2016/07/why-diversity-programs-fail

A black machine operator reported: “I had four years at Englewood High School. I took an exam for a checker’s job. The foreman told me I failed” and gave the job to a white man who “didn’t take the exam.” This kind of thing still happens. When we interviewed the new HR director at a West Coast food company, he said he found that white managers were making only strangers — most of them minorities — take supervisor tests and hiring white friends without testing them.

Key takeaways: Hiring requirements are applied selectively. Requirements become more stringent when Caucasians want to justify not hiring People of Color and less stringent when Caucasians want to justify hiring more Caucasians. In addressing bias in hiring, if white people are not pandered to, that can backfire with our unconscious and conscious biases toward People of Color being strengthened. This suggests that even in addressing the racism perpetuated by white supremacy, progress is contingent upon centering the conversation on the very people who benefit from white supremacist systems.

How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on Their Teams

By Joan C. Williams and Sky Mihaylo via the November-December 2019 issue of the Harvard Business Review Magazine
https://hbr.org/2019/11/how-the-best-bosses-interrupt-bias-on-their-teams

In hiring, leaders should insist on a diverse pool, precommit to objective criteria, limit referral hiring, and structure interviews around skills-based questions.

What’s great about this article is that it gives day-to-day things that we can each do personally that require little time and political capital to address a giant issue that can otherwise feel overwhelming to address.

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Ala Mar B

Intersectional feminist, atheist. My pronouns are they/she. Associate Professor of Translation and Localization Management. Views I express are my own.