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The Underpaid Talent On Your Board

Many thanks to the amazing Jeremy Quittner for filling in for me this week! —E.M.

A new study by researchers from the University of Missouri and the University of Delaware shows that when women and people of color serve on high-profile corporate boards, they are paid less than their white, male counterparts, and are less likely to be given powerful leadership positions which can contribute to the company, enhance their reputations and increase their compensation.

Researchers Matthew Souther of from Mizzou’s Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business, along with co-authors Adam York, assistant professor of finance, and Laura Field, professor of finance at the University of Delaware, reviewed 1,800 companies and 70,000 board members and their compensation. Their findings are a combination punch:

  • Minority board members are more likely to be found at the bigger, more high-profile firms that have done a better job being inclusive.
  • These same board members are less likely to chair committees or serve on the types of “power” committees, like compensation, that can build their reputations and earn them higher pay.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: Minority board members tend to be more qualified than their white, male counterparts in terms of education, experience, and expertise.

The difference in compensation is, on average, in the 3 to 9 percent range, which doesn’t sound like much, until you think about it. “The pay gap is not huge, so we think this might be some type of subconscious effect,” said Yore in a statement published by the University of Missouri. “Yet, it is something that could impact a board because they could be missing a significant perspective by not having a minority or female on the board serving in a leadership role. We also found that the pay gap was larger for those who had served longer, which also is concerning as boards always want to attract and retain the best people.”

This “subconscious effect” is bound to be familiar to any “minority” who works in a big company or has earned a seat at any table of influence. Sure, corporations are spending millions of dollars trying to train these subconscious effects away, and I have to believe it will help in the long run. But findings like these show that being just a few degrees away from real power can still be a world away.

On Point

Online trolls attack the wrong Asian American for taking a photo of Rex Tillerson’s notesNo, we don’t all look alike, laments Washington Post homepage editor Doris Truong, who was on the wrong end of an online troll attack yesterday, when she was mistakenly identified as the woman who might have snapped photos of the notes Tillerson took during his Senate testimony. The attacks were vicious, and got racist pretty quickly. “A lot of the comments also focused on my Chinese heritage, implying—or outright stating—that I must be spying for China,” she wrote. Even Sarah Palin weighed in.Washington Post

The force was with Hidden Figures at the box office and that’s important
Hidden Figures, the film about the forgotten black women mathematicians who helped the U.S. enter the space race, bested Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at the box office despite being shown in nearly half as many theaters. Of course, the win helped amplify Oscar buzz. But what really matters is the money, argues arts writer Kevin O’Keeffe. “This is the rare box office win to get excited about,” he says. The idea that black women can’t open successful films domestically or internationally, “is the exact kind of nonsense that falls apart in the face of cold, hard numbers.”

The most violent four miles in America
It’s not in Chicago, but on a deadly stretch of road called Natural Bridge Avenue in St. Louis, Mo. The street is so famous it shows up in rap songs. This piece accompanies a Guardian special report on the racial inequality of gun violence in America; their deep reporting moves beyond crime stats and census data to bring the human stories of this once thriving black neighborhood, now a shell after years of racial exclusion, underinvestment, and systemic neglect. One tale: Community organizer James Clark sends volunteers to shutter up abandoned buildings or ask residents what they need. They leave yard signs behind, now so popular that they cannot keep them in stock. “We must stop killing each other,” they read.
The Guardian

An Arkansas school board member once reviled for wearing blackface, receives an award
Photos of Ted Bonner, a school board member in Blevins, Ark, wearing overalls, blackface, bright red lips, and holding a “Blak Lives Matters” sign, went viral last Halloween. Appalled school officials, not authorized to fire board members, could do nothing. Board member Bonner is back in the news for his latest achievement: an award titled Outstanding Board Member. “I am fully aware of the irony,” said an attorney for the Arkansas School Board Association. Bonner’s many fans are thrilled.
Washington Post

The Woke Leader

On-skin whiteners and the love of family
Lamya H, a queer Muslim writer living in New York City, has written a poignant essay in three parts that explores the way the racism inherent in her own family formed a complex backdrop for her own thinking on race, beauty, and violence. In scene one, an adolescent Lamya is encouraged by the older women in her family to bleach her skin to finally become pretty. In scene two, she feels her own story unraveling while sitting in a postcolonial theory class. “Unlearning what I have learned about skin from my brown family is a slow, circuitous process, full of embarrassing regressions and painful memories,” she writes. In scene three, she lets it all burn.
The Offing

A growing movement of black-owned family farmers want to feed your family
USDA stats show that vast majority of the two million farmers in the U.S are white men over 35. But a small but determined number of young black farm operators are set on changing that, hoping to bring sustainable farming along with good, affordable food to communities across the country. But it’s a tough go. In shades of Jim Crow, some black farmers still have difficulty persuading white landowners to sell them land. And one young farmer says that modern farming is just too complex. “The barriers to getting into farming are too big for most young people—capital, land, equipment, knowledge.”
Atlanta Black Star

“Where’s Sasha?” A lesson on cultural stereotypes
Jeff Yang, a contributor to CNN’s opinion page, wondered why Sasha Obama wasn’t in the audience during her dad’s farewell speech. “Ultimate proof he’s our first Asian American president: POTUS made Sasha Obama skip his historic farewell address because she had an exam,” he tweeted. While some Asian Americans got his joke, plenty of other people protested the dangerous stereotypes he referenced: First, that Asians are “model minorities,” and second, that black people are unfocused on education, so when they set limits, they must no longer be black. “In satirizing an Asian-American stereotype, I was feeding into an African-American one,” he wrote in this lengthy apology.


We play into the definitions and stereotypes others impose on us and accept the model-minority myth, thinking it’s positive, but it’s a trap just like any stereotype. They put a piece of model-minority cheese between the metal jaws of their mousetrap, but we’re lactose intolerant anyway! We can’t even eat the cheese.
—Eddie Huang