Diversity has been a dialogue in the U.S. for decades. In 1920, women were given the right to vote nationally, after almost a century of protests for suffrage. Up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation was legal across the country, which held up standards of exclusion that permeated American culture across all classes.
This was a little over 50 years ago, and although we are getting closer to equal human rights, the effects of centuries of sexism and racism will continue to influence those in power for decades to come. Therefore, intentional diversity in the workplace is crucial to ensuring inclusion of all sexes and races.
Diversity in the workplace is restrained by subconscious discrimination and stigma. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, by 2042, the non-Hispanic white population in the United States will comprise less than 50 percent of the nation’s total population, making the country a majority-minority nation. As this year creeps closer, diversity continues to be a slow process as the cultural shift towards inclusion takes place and normalizes. However, those in positions of power who are slow to make this change don’t realize the valuable perspectives that different backgrounds offer.
America is a melting pot of cultures, races, and ethnicities, and as the population of minorities grows, the number of people with personal experiences from other cultures goes up. Those who are familiar with different cultures are more capable of international conflict resolution, as their experiences allow them to connect with global business partners and diminish cultural barriers. People without these experiences often have a harder time being sensitive to cultural differences due to their limited experience with other cultures.
Without first-hand experiences with other cultures, it can be difficult to recognize the casual discrimination that can happen unknowingly when one is not sensitive to differences. This could come in one of several different types of workplace discrimination, such as an employer not accommodating an employee’s disability or religious beliefs, not following the Equal Pay Act of 1963 or any kind of harassment or wrongful termination due to a person’s gender or race. While equal pay and harassment are often clear, not accommodating religious beliefs may be harder to recognize.
To avoid discrimination and ensure inclusion, employers must be intentional about their recruitment and who they choose to promote internally for higher-level management positions. Recruitment in 2018 is influenced by many different factors in an attempt to hire people without bias, such as anonymous hiring using computer programs that select candidates based on screening qualifications. Although technology can be helpful in this process, it’s also important to make deliberate decisions towards inclusivity.
When deciding who to hire between two people who are equally qualified, employers have often let a subconscious appeal towards someone who is more like them sway their decision, and because there are many white men in positions of power, this continues the pattern. Partialness to those who look and talk like you doesn’t create equal opportunities to individuals from different backgrounds and because this preference is often not at the forefront of someone’s mind, it can be the result of unintentional bias.
We’ve made strides towards diversity and inclusion over the last hundred years, but cultural shifts take decades before the impact of racism and sexism fades. To avoid unintentional bias, it’s important to make decisions that are based on inclusionary efforts and to make deliberate hiring decisions based on increasing diversity. A reputation of inclusivity increases a company’s applicant pool, and workplace diversity helps companies make better decisions not only for their employees but for clients and consumers as well.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.