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EEOC Considers Past, Looks Toward Future

Commission Meeting Celebrates Progress During EEOC's 50-Year History and Acknowledges More Work Needs to Be Done

WASHINGTON-Much work lies ahead to achieve true equality of opportunity in today's workplaces, but new and effective strategies are demonstrating the potential to break down barriers to inclusion, witnesses told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at a meeting held today.

"On the eve of EEOC's 50th anniversary, today's Commission meeting reflects the significant progress that has been made toward a more just and equal workplace," said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. "We remain committed to addressing the forms of employment discrimination that persist in the 21st century."

Ron Edwards, director of EEOC's Program Research and Surveys Division, reviewed trends in the participation of minorities and women in the workforce over the EEOC's history. He noted that in 1966, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans each made up less than 1 percent of the senior-level positions in large companies. Since then, the participation rates for all three have increased by five to seven times, he said. During the same time frame, the percentage of women working in a management capacity increased from less than 10 percent to nearly 40 percent, he said.

Sociology Professor Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, discussed the non-linear progress of equal employment opportunity. He described the years between 1960 and 1972 as a period of "corporate uncertainty," when African Americans-particularly males-experienced significant advances despite little case law on appropriate equal opportunity practices. The "short regulatory decade" from 1972 to 1980 produced widespread progress in equal employment opportunity, with strong EEOC enforcement and the rise of the women's movement, he said. He painted a much different picture after 1980, when advances for African American men and women virtually stopped, though gains for white women continued. He said white women's employment progress slowed in the 1990s and stalled by 2000.

Jocelyn C. Frye, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, highlighted that two-thirds of mothers are primary, sole, or co-breadwinners. She concurred with Tomaskovic-Devey that women face employment barriers that often result in lower wages, less flexibility, and fewer advancement opportunities. Further, Frye urged the Commission to ensure equal pay by helping to close the wage gap, combat discriminatory pregnancy practices, and collaborate with business to host voluntary training on best practices for managers pursue.

Rachel D. Godsil, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, spoke about the obstacles that implicit bias and racial anxiety pose to equal employment opportunity. She said the combination of implicit bias, which can result in harsher critiques and assumptions about competence, and racial anxiety creates significant differences in workplace experiences. She cited research to prove how the two factors can undermine fairness in the workplace. Then she shared a range of practices that have minimized or eliminated them.

Solon Barocas, a research associate at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology, described how employers today are using "data mining" to improve their search for good employees. He also cited problems with such automated methods. For example, in data mining for the "best" candidates, employers often define "best" in a way that is far more specific and limited than the word means in day-to-day conversation, he explained. These flaws in big data usage can lead to discriminatory impact and potential Title VII violations, he said.

Arent Fox Partner Darrell Gay discussed techniques employers are using to foster work environments free of discrimination. He said employers are developing policies and codes of conduct to ensure that all workers know the rules of the road and the consequences for not following them. Employers also are training workers, including managers and supervisors, he said. Lastly, he emphasized that employers are using internal grievance channels to fully investigate employee concerns and providing employees with prompt responses their issues.

The Honorable Cari M. Dominguez, former EEOC Chair and senior vice president and chief talent and diversity officer at Loma Linda University Health, described the growing complexity of today's workplaces, where employers face industry consolidations, global competition, dramatic technological advancement, and increased pressure from investors and shareholders for greater returns. She said business leaders are hard pressed to find the employees they need to meet such pressures. To achieve this goal, enlightened employers have made inclusive practices integral to their business strategies, she concluded.

The Commission will hold open the July 1, 2015 Commission meeting record for 15 days, and invites audience members, as well as other members of the public, to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at the meeting. Public comments may be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or emailed to:

The public comments will be made available to members of the Commission and to Commission staff working on the matters discussed at the meeting. In addition, comments may be disclosed on the EEOC's public website, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, or in the Commission's library. By providing public comments in response to this solicitation you are consenting to their use and consideration by the Commission and to their public dissemination. Accordingly, do not include any information in submitted comments that you would not want made public, e.g., home address, telephone number, etc. Also note that when comments are submitted by e-mail, the sender's e-mail address automatically appears on the message.

The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at