The Bias of Professionalism Standards discusses how the notion of “professionalism“ is infused with and privileges white Western cultural values.
Author Aysa Gray explains how many seemingly accepted markers of “professionalism” are coded in favor of white/Western culture, effecting who is hired, who is seen as professional, and who is fired, because of white dominant standards of dress, accent, culture and fit, punctuality, language use, and workstyle. Employers and educators too often teach these markers of professionalism as soft skills, uncritically, without exploring the racial and cultural dimensions of these skills. Gray explains how a monochromic (white/Western) relationship to work centers productivity over people, while a polychromic orientation prioritizes socialization and familial connections, setting up a hierarchy within a capitalist society where predominantly white, Western workers are seen as more professional than those from a polychromic orientation. The call to action is to examine our own relationship to the workplace practices that favor white and Western employees, identifying where and how we can challenge these coded markers of professionalism. Additionally, Gray suggests engaging facilitators that can help workplaces create human resources policies and procedures that consider marginalized voices, especially in setting hiring, firing, promotion practices, and work culture in real time.