Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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B. Empathy: Women of Color in Corporate America


All of the accounts of the Texaco debacle ignore the significance of the fact that the litigation was filed initially by an African-American woman who remained the named plaintiff in the class action. Nothing is said about the discrimination that she and other women suffered because they were women of color. Even in a book authored by Roberts giving her personal account of Texaco's toxic racial culture, nothing is said about differences in the way women of color were treated when compared to minority men. For example, one pregnant woman was the target of a degrading "joke" that was attributed to the racism of the "joker," rather than his sexism, even though the "joke" was about her pregnancy.
In the immediately preceding Part, I hypothesized that corporate directors and managers are more likely to empathize with white women who are victims of discrimination than with minority victims of discrimination. Close personal relationships with white women who share personal narratives of discrimination inspire corporate managers to develop policies against sexual harassment and discrimination. Corporate policies prohibiting racial discrimination are not as clearly stated, and conduct that breaches these policies is infrequently monitored. Because close personal relationships between corporate managers, most of whom are white and male, and people of color are more rare than their relationships with white women, directorates and management respond more effectively to sexual discrimination and harassment than to racial discrimination allegations. I compare empathic understanding of women and racial minorities, not to compare or compete about who has suffered the most, but simply to make an observation about the way companies are governed and the role that empathy plays in their governance.


It is even more unlikely that corporate decision makers would have the kinds of personal relationships that would foster empathy with women of color. Stereotypes and personal experience with women of African descent, in particular, lead to conceptions of women of color that are completely antithetical to the paradigm of corporate success. The personal relationships with women of color, which are experienced by most who belong to the class of persons to which corporate officers and directors belong, revolve around the provision of childcare, elder care, or domestic work.

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