Equality, Diversity and Racism In The Workplace
The University of Manchester produced fascinatingly insightful research on racism and discrimination in the workplace, albeit difficult to read at times. Whilst I cannot do it justice by writing an article about it here, I want to share some insights with you. The paper is titled: ‘Equality, Diversity and Racism in the Workplace: A Qualitative Analysis of the 2015 Race at Work Survey’ (Ashe & Nazroo 2016).
The authors write: ‘Racism very much remains a persistent, if not routine and systematic, feature of work life in Britain, thus contributing to the organisation of society in ways that structurally disadvantage ethnic minority workers.’
They explain that ethnic minority workers are frequently subjected to racism by various levels of the hierarchy and from numerous directions from colleagues, managers, customers, clients and service users.
One of the challenges is that its damage can be perceptually diluted by being described as ‘everyday banter’. However, it can also be overtly violent and involve intimidation.
Alongside antisemitism and Islamophobia, crude and overt racism and discrimination against Black and Asian people is also prevalent.
Being the subject of racism and even just observing it can have a direct impact on the mental health and psychological and emotional well-being of ethnic minority employees.
‘Racism was also reported to have a negative impact on the careers of ethnic minority employees, reducing opportunities for additional training and career progression.’ Many ethnic minority workers also reported looking for alternative forms of employment because of their experience of racism.
Some workplaces were reportedly very proactive in the ongoing and regular promotion of equality, diversity and fairness whilst a large number of survey respondents stated they were unaware or unsure of what their employer did to promote equality, diversity and fairness whilst others believed such efforts were ‘non-existent’ at their workplace.
Sadly, whilst some managers have a zero-tolerance approach to racism in the workplace, ethic minority workers more frequently stated that managers were one of the main culprits.
Indifference to racism is another challenge, both manager and trade union representative indifference to racism in some instances though at other times trade union representatives have been supportive.
‘Many employees commended equality and diversity practitioners for the role that they played in promoting equality, diversity and fairness and supporting colleagues who had experienced and/or witnessed racism.’ However, some ethnic minority reported that some practitioners did not pay adequate attention to challenging racism and addressing racial inequality in the workplace.
Gaining the support of everyone is important in the fight for equality and yet, the researchers report: ’Alongside racism, White resentment is a significant problem. In some cases, White British employees suggested that activities and training promoting equality and diversity were no longer necessary. It was also suggested that equality and diversity activities provided ethnic minority employees with an unfair advantage and preferential treatment. These types of reaction appear to be part of a broader, overall negative, if not hostile, response to equality and diversity work.’
What such discrimination in the workplace findings highlight is that:
- Educating everyone in the workplace is vital…
♦ this requires changing how your people think, addressing attitudes – automatic, subconscious attitudes in particular, self-awareness as this improves empathy, changing behaviours, and more.
- Everyone needs to be on board for equality…
♦ and change starts from the top down and must be consistently and persistently reinforced in a gentle, respectful way for change to take place, and it must be delivered in a way that educates rather than humilates in order for the perpetrator to understand that change is necessary.
- Those that ignore the plight of employees to be treated fairly and equally carry some responsibility for any impact on the mental health and well-being of those employees discriminated against, and the impact that has upon society as a ripple effect…
♦ therefore, clarity on this point can help motivate positive change, when people understand exactly how they ae harming and hurting others, they will often seek to change their habits because then it impacts their own self-image and highlights realities they may not have considered before.
- And that managers, managing directors, CEOs, business owners, HR professionals, trade union professionals, and equality and diversity practitioners, carry the responsibility of the increase in business costs when employees leave, and the increase in profits when employees, stay and thrive…
♦ therefore, by making this clear and by making people accountable for the bad and rewarded for the good they do, change is possible at a much faster rate and in a lasting way.
Take charge of racial and minority equality
Be the employer or headteacher that people praise rather than name and shame, be the compassionate employer or headteacher who does something to address equality rights in your workplace or school, be the employer or headteacher that creates a happy, healthy, thriving workforce or school by addressing issues of discrimination, equality and fairness.
To discuss how, with my help, discrimination, equality and fairness issues can be proactively addressed in your workplace or school, please get in touch.
Ashe, S. D. & Nazroo, J. (2016). Equality, Diversity and Racism in the Workplace: A Qualitative Analysis of the 2015 Race at Work Survey. ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity University of Manchester. Manchester: UK