Initiatives that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace have made meaningful differences in the workplace in the last five years. Equitable access to education and opportunity has been on the rise, and employers are reaping the benefits of hiring diverse talent.
However, considerable barriers to workplace opportunities still exist. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report found that, on average, people of color were more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts, and that white and Asian adults were considerably more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher than other races.
Additionally, a 2020 BLS report found that 71% of people living with a disability faced a barrier to gaining employment. Amongst these barriers, their own disability ranked as the highest barrier, but 12.2% cited a lack of education or training, and 9.9% reported that workplaces did not provide the adaptable features they needed to work.
These findings are troubling and speak to the continued effect that systemic inequality has on our society. However, as an employee, it’s hard to know what you can do to help. It’s unlikely that you will be able to change the underlying causes of inequity in society, and it’s easy to feel helpless when faced with hundreds of years of direct oppression and the overt effects of racism and ableism.
However, you can make a difference in your workplace, and should start by understanding your employers’ responsibility to diversity in the workplace.
There have been a series of acts enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 1964. These laws make it illegal for employers to directly discriminate against employees based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or political affiliation. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination still happens.
If you suspect that your employer isn’t holding up to their responsibility to avoid discrimination, you can take legal action to end the discrimination in your workplace. The process isn’t easy and is largely dependent upon what kind of business you work in. However, it is still in your best interest to know your rights so you can file an official complaint to the EEOC.
Despite the presence of non-discrimination laws, workplace discrimination still happens and often goes unchecked. A recent Vox report found that only 18% of claims made to the EEOC were successful, and the history of the EEOC is woefully underwhelming.
This means that it is largely up to employers to make up their own guidelines when it comes to diversity in the workplace. As an employee, you can advocate for your organization to take proactive steps to ensure that your working environment makes a serious commitment to diversity.
One of the best ways to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is to form community leadership groups. Ideally, these groups should be made up of a diverse range of backgrounds and demographics.
You will also need to establish clear ground rules before jumping into a community leadership initiative. These will help break deadlocks and will ensure your organization can move forward even if you have disagreements within the community leadership panels.
Apprenticeship programs are a great way to draw more diverse talent to your organization. These apprenticeships are usually able to target specific, underrepresented groups, and will show that your organization has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Unfortunately, not everyone in your workplace will be receptive to initiatives that promote diversity. However, you must recognize that these folks may not have had great access to education themselves and simply haven’t learned about systemic biases.
To overcome this, you should advocate for further education about diversity in your workplace. This means that your organization’s employees can avoid harmful microaggressions that undermine people’s sense of belonging, and your organization can work together to help promote a more just, diverse society.
Employers have a responsibility to follow discrimination laws, and you can actively promote diversity in the workplace by advocating for new diversity-centric programs and re-education for folks who are a little behind.
This blog is printed with permission.
About the Author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.