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Commentary

Is the equal employment opportunity census misleading?

Marketplace Contributor Sep 17, 2012
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In its nearly 50 years of existence, the EEO-1 has never contained a category for national origin, and it’s time to change it.

With the current census form, a black employee born in Paris who works full time in the United States is identified the same as an African American. There is no way to differentiate between an Asian born in Singapore and an Asian American born in Sacramento. By conflating foreign-born with native-born workers, it is impossible to tell whether the increase in diversity among corporate leaders in this country is the result of grassroot cultivation or an influx of well-educated immigrants.

In a study of executive officers at Fortune 100 companies, I found that immigrants are doing very well at the top of the ladder. In fact, they are over-represented. In 2009, more than half of the Latino executive officers were born outside of the U.S. They came from eight different countries in Latin America. More than half of the Asian executive officers were also born beyond our borders (most came from India). Many of these executives are from wealthy families in countries where they were part of the majority. They are not traditional American minorities who may have struggled historically from discrimination. 

Immigration is a cherished part of the American experience, and it invigorates our economy. Identifying immigrants in the EEO-1 would not be used to stigmatize them. Instead, it would help clarify whether our efforts to improve the education, training and integration of homegrown minorities are paying off. We need to understand why foreign-born minorities are promoted more and whether the United States is providing greater opportunity for immigrants than it does for its own.

Susan E. Reed is an investigative journalist and author of the book, The Diversity Index: The Alarming Truth about Diversity in Corporate America…and What Can Be Done About It.

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