Words Versus Actions: Survey Shows Most Workers Report to White Males

According to a new survey on attitudes and action in the workplace, 19% of workers say they know someone who they believe was denied a job, promotion, or pay increase because of that individual’s race or ethnicity.

That figure more than doubles to 46% for African-American workers, the survey shows.

Another 22% of employees know someone who they think was denied a job, promotion, or pay increase because of their gender, according to the survey by recruitment company Hudson Highland.

Of the 4,825 workers polled, 47% say their company has a formal diversity initiative and 43% indicate that there is racial, ethnic, and gender diversity on their company’s executive team.

The Hudson survey shows that just 31% of workers believe the initiatives are working effectively, 35% think they do not work effectively, and 33% are unsure.

“Despite the clear need for more diversity in the workplace, particularly in supervisory and leadership roles, some employers continue to struggle with implementing diversity programs and creating an inclusive environment that embraces all workers regardless of race, gender, age, sexual preference, or ethnicity,” said Jessica Priego Lopez, a diversity director at Hudson, in a release.

“The global forces affecting businesses make diversity of talent and diversity of thought an absolute necessity, and very soon, companies will have a hard time remaining competitive if they do not succeed in recruiting, retaining, and developing workers from diverse backgrounds,” she added.

Government employees are most likely, at 47%, to have a female boss, and employees at companies with more than 500 employees were more likely to report that their organization had a formal diversity initiative and diverse executive team.

Lip Service or More?

The survey shows that companies haven’t succeeded in convincing employees they are not discriminating, according to George Lenard, attorney and managing partner at Harris Dowell Fisher & Harris, L.C. in St. Louis.

“That perception of discrimination is a reality, and it can be a costly one for employers, whether factually accurate or not.”

“For example, I had a case within the last six months in which a temp agency was processing a lot of people, and one woman filed a discrimination charge after she was terminated. She was fired because she lied about her criminal record,” he says.

“We brought out that within the past year, there had been 19 other people — male, female, black, white — terminated for the same thing. The facts established that the company implemented its policy without discrimination, yet the employee, not knowing this fact, perceived discrimination,” he says.

In the eyes of surveyed employees, “there appears to be a huge gap between what employers are giving lip service to and what they are really doing,” he says.

“A successful diversity program should be able to do a better job of persuading the employees the company is succeeding in eradicating discrimination,” he says.

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While he agrees that discrimination exists at many companies, he recommends that companies consider exploring employee attitudes to better implement diversity initiatives, Lenard explains.

“If you want to be serious about drawing conclusions from these numbers, you have to go deeper than that in identifying why employees believe there is so much discrimination, and then developing a program that attacks both the perception and the underlying reality,” he says.

Shifting Mindsets

Yet even after digging into the facts and figures to determine which companies are more inclusive — and which companies are truly not — attitudes won’t shift overnight.

“It’s going to take a lot and a long time because we have new mindsets coming into play,” says Yvonne LaRose, CAC, consultant and freelance writer.

“It comes down to ethics; doing what you say and standing behind it. That is what needs to happen to diversity initiatives,” says LaRose.

Even still, many times, “people can hold up all the credentials you want and they are still denied. This can be based on old mindsets, not based on what they are capable of doing,” she says.

She recommends that recruiters first analyze themselves honestly to admit what their biases are and determine why they have those biases.

“Once you have admitted what they are and why you have them, if they are based on repeated experiences, then own up to them,” she says.

Next, recruiters need to overcome that bias by taking active steps to recognize when it’s coming into play. “Once you have recognition of it, there should be a point in time when you realize you are doing it and tell yourself to stop,” she adds.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.


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