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Race and Gender Play a Role in Gaining Trust at Work

image for Look Studio / Shutterstock
Look Studio / Shutterstock

Trust is a difficult commodity to come by these days. Whether that's trust in elected officials, co-workers or the people we hire, Americans have seemingly become more divided over the years. But how does that overall distrust in people affect how we interact on a business level?

A recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans, spanning multiple generations, examined how certain factors – including race, gender and political leanings – influence who we trust. Each participant was shown random images of people with varying races and genders. Researchers associated each photo with a different job and then asked participants how much they trusted the pictured individual in that role.

According to the survey, these factors play a role in whether Americans are leery or trusting of people in certain roles.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, gender equality has become a major issue in American culture. Though people are pushing to close the gender wage gap and combat sexual harassment in the workplace, it seems people are still unwilling to trust certain genders in certain industries.

Take your local auto repair shop: If you look at who's actually doing the work, it's likely to be all men. According to the survey, that may be by design, as approximately 62% of people said they trusted mechanics, but less than 56% said they'd trust a female mechanic compared to their male counterparts (69%).

That being said, gender biases don't just apply to female workers. According to the survey, men were less likely to be trusted as housecleaners or doctors than women. More than 93% of people said they trusted a female doctor, while 90% said they trusted a male doctor.

Researchers said approximately one-third of respondents believed their workplace had equal gender representation. They also found that discrimination against women was more likely in male-dominated industries.

While a person's sex often plays into our preconceived notion of their competency, race also plays a major role, according to the survey.

While there are approximately 54 million Hispanic people in the U.S., survey respondents ranked the largest minority group as the least trusted employees in several industries. Less than 90% of people trusted Hispanic physicians compared to their white (91%) and black (93%) counterparts. Hispanic were also trusted at 78% as plumbers and at 88% as drivers.

Conversely, African American employees were most trusted as plumbers (92%) and mechanics (67%). Asian workers were most trusted as housecleaners (89%) and IT workers (93%).

How much trust someone put into a person of color also came down to political ideology, as 73% of survey respondents who said they were liberal were comfortable letting someone who didn't speak English work in their house alone. When asked the same question, just 54% of conservatives said the same.

Differences in gender and race are sticky topics that we continue to struggle with as a nation. While people continue their work in breaking down those barriers, certain factors help people overcome their lack of trust based on these biases.

Respondents were asked to rank the most important qualities in a worker. The top three qualities were experience, education and sincerity. Despite what they'd said about certain genders and ethnicities throughout the rest of the survey, people ranked these as the least important factors.

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining Business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.