McCluney, Roberts explain why women of color aren’t eager to return to in-person work

July 26, 2021

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels
Courtney McCluney

Courtney McCluney

A New York Times account is required to access this article.

Center for Positive Organizations faculty affiliates Courtney McCluney and Laura Morgan Roberts are quoted in The New York Times article “Return to Office? Some Women of Color Aren’t Ready.”

The article explores why many black and brown women aren’t eager to return to the office — and the microaggressions, code-switching, and stress that come with it — after working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article also offers suggestions for how employers can create more inclusive policies for returning to the office.

“This was the first year that I haven’t had my hair commented on and touched without permission in my professional life,” McCluney says. “I actually like not having to go into the office and be constantly reminded that I’m the only Black woman there.”

Laura Morgan Roberts

Roberts adds that women of color tend to have a more negative experience in the workplace than white women and are more likely to feel disconnected and disengaged.

“They’ve historically worked in environments that have not been physically safe for them, much less psychologically or emotionally safe,” Roberts says.

McCluney and Roberts urge leaders to familiarize themselves with the challenges black and brown women face before creating back-to-the-office policies. McCluney also suggests giving women of color a choice about whether to return to the office or continue working remotely.

McCluney is an Assistant Professor at the Cornell University ILR School.

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.