Does gender and racial identity no longer matter in business?

coverThe presence of female and minority leaders in America today has some people thinking that gender and racial/ethnic identity no longer matter in business and society today. In fact, these issues have just become muted and difficult to talk about due to political correctness and fear. Who benefits from this? Not most Americans of color, not most white Americans, not men, not women, and certainly not children.

If you want an example of how powerful gender norms still are, and how our society lashes out when people violate them in the business world, check out this post on Salon about the negative reaction to the new book by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” out today.

I’m stunned by the venom directed at a powerful woman who declares herself a feminist when so many of her peers don’t dare to, and who writes a book to try to help other women identify the social, political and, yes, psychological factors that keep them down. You don’t have to like the book, but I don’t get the hate.

Unfortunately, vitriol is often the response when women and people of color speak up about their realities, and also when white men speak out about diversity issues or violate what people perceive are the norms of white maleness. We all suffer from this uncivil discourse. Awareness of these issues and skills to engage in civil discourse about these and other important issues are important to business and are valued in the UST MBA.

Teresa Rothausen-Vange, Ph.D., is a professor of management and Susan E. Heckler Endowed Chair in Business Administration