An accepting workplace reflects diversity and honors differences. Intolerance of minorities and differences continues to be evident in society and, thus, will also be present in workplaces.  Businesses remain behind societal trends as a general rule.

Diversity and Inclusion have been topics at the forefront of most companies for years and yet equity for under-represented employees remains a statistical reality. A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review offers statistical support for the realization that diversity and equity remain tepid in most sectors:

  • Black people account for 12% of the overall workforce but only 8% of management.
  • Among Fortune 500 companies, the number of Black CEOs peaked in 2012. There were 12.
  • 43% of the workforce is white, but 77% of high ranking VPs are white.
    • Less than 10% are Black.
  • Female representation is diminished along the corporate pipeline.
    • One in five are women.
    • Women are more likely to have judgment questioned.
    • “One in ten women leaders indicates women are well-represented,” according to 45% men and 28% women surveyed.
    • The biggest obstacle women face is the first step up to management.
  • Black women and women with disabilities:
    • Face the most barriers to advancement.
    • Get less support from managers.
    • Receive less sponsorship than other groups of women.

Companies must look inward to determine what role they play in perpetuating this reality and implement measures to address and begin to remedy this reality. It is the right thing to do. It is also necessary for long-term sustainability. Even those companies excelling in respectful workplaces must continually assess the workplace for areas needing growth.

Employers might consider:

  • Are we diverse from the top down?
  • Is our employee population diverse? Or is it homogenous?
  • Is there disparity in management diversity?
  • Are there examples of leaders from under-represented groups?
  • How do we manage diversity?

Often you hear employers discuss prospective employees in the context of whether they “fit our workplace culture.” Employers should challenge that thinking and consider what is meant by “workplace culture” and in what context it is applied. If the purpose is ensuring a positive and encouraging workplace, then the inquiry is one that should not hinder workplace culture.  Conversely, if the meaning refers to similar backgrounds to those represented in the workplace, whether that be cultural, societal, or economic, this could indicate an intolerance of differences. Employers desiring to hire those similar in thought and like-mindedness are also not seeking to develop a diverse workplace. Differences reflected in all aspects of the workforce serve to suggest a diverse and inclusive workplace while the converse suggests the opposite.

Creating or maintaining a workplace that honors differences and welcomes diversity requires first understanding how under-represented individuals feel in the workplace and if they sense they are valued.

On September 17, Chris will continue the Diversity & Inclusion discussion as a panelist at the virtual Women in Legal & Corporate Leadership Summit.

Click here for related blog posts on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.