White-centering can be thought of as a system that prioritizes white dominant culture to the detriment of non-white groups and cultures. White-centering has been given many names including the and . Because white-centering is often left unexamined and unchecked, equity and justice have continued to evade organizations.

There are an infinite number of ways that whiteness is centered within organizations. A 2004 found that job applicants with Black sounding names were less likely to receive callbacks, and nearly two decades later, a separate replicated these findings. The applicant tracking systems (ATS) that many large organizations utilize to assist with the hiring and selection process is also rife with bias. A by headstart.io examining more than 20,000 applicants found evidence that “legacy ATS platforms enable inequitable hiring processes that lead to severe discrimination amongst Black and Asian candidates.”

White-centering also impacts the advancement and promotion process in a number of ways. The describes the additional barriers that women of color face, compared to white women, when it comes to workplace advancement. A 2019 indicated that 65% of Black professionals feel like they have to work harder to advance compared to their white counterparts. Asian Americans face many workplace challenges and are the group that is least likely to be promoted to management positions, according to a 2018 Harvard Business Review .

The ways that whiteness is centered in the workplace are endless. Given the pervasiveness of this issue, what can be done to start the process of actively decentering whiteness in the workplace?


1. Education. Despite the best laid plans of corporate America, DEI efforts haven’t been as anticipated. According to a recent that explored workplace racism, whiteness as the default plays a in allowing racist behaviors to continue. The acceptance of white dominant culture as the norm leads to the othering of employees that don’t meet these standards. This problem is amplified because of the lack of understanding and awareness of how whiteness, as system, is prioritized in our workplaces. Inviting experts and educators to facilitate learning is paramount—DEI efforts will not be successful if there is a lack of education around how whiteness is centered in the workplace.

2. Objectivity. Within workplace cultures, there are values, norms and mores that employees quickly adapt to. These learned behaviors guide our understanding and influence our actions. How often do we stop to interrogate what is considered “normal” in our workplace and what measures can be put in place so we can actively decenter white workplace norms? One of the best strategies is implementing objective criteria into workplace systems. When evaluating the most suitable candidates for a role or when assessing employee performance, use a or to gauge the set of core competencies that an individual possesses. Do you have a in place so that there can be discussions among managers about employee evaluations? Think about integrating objective methods into workplace systems to actively decentering whiteness in the workplace.

3. Accountability. Every employee should be responsible for the environment they are creating in the workplace. Regardless of an employee’s perceived productivity or performance, if they are causing racial harm, they must be held accountable for their actions— are a vital part of an organization’s sustainability. In the workplace, a primary way that whiteness is centered is through the acceptance of racist workplace behaviors. Many employees who have experienced racial harm have reported a lack of accountability for their perpetrators. Cultivating systems to hold those who cause racial harm accountable can promote equity, prevent preferential treatment, and create a safer environment for all employees.