Abstract: Black Jelly Beans and Glass Ceilings: Employment Diversity in the 1990s

Benton Williams


Civil rights enforcement and employer initiatives changed the demographic composition of the American workplace in the 1970s and beyond. However, employers found that the diversity of their workplaces did not solve problems like litigation as they had hoped and that new problems like harassment arose. The pace of progress in the 1960s-1980s slowed as women and non-white men found that positions above middle management were for white men only at almost all firms. Government and corporate archives, reactions recorded in the press, and oral interviews reveal that employers and employees failed to adjust to a changing workplace despite the ubiquitous aid of diversity experts, and that government enforcement efforts were ineffective. The Texaco "black jelly bean" fiasco of 1994 was a case study of how an increasingly diverse workforce created legal and economic problems for ill-prepared or unsympathetic management and how a chastened leadership could swiftly address these problems when the bottom line was threatened.