3 Tips to End Racial and Gender Inequality in the Workplace

While it’s still easy to find examples of racial and gender inequality in the workplace by employers in the news, many are completely unaware of how harmful these behaviors can be.

Even if your office has policies that don’t allow racist or sexist behavior, there’s a good chance you’re still not doing enough to eliminate issues like racial favoritism or benevolent sexism that could be lurking  silently in the background. They’re not seen in outrageous remarks on Twitter, nor are they as obvious as the sexual harassment claims in the media today, but they are there, and it’s up to HR professionals to institute policies that end racial and gender inequality in the workplace.

Proof of Inequality is Evident

Although the wage gaps have been closing, there’s still quite a bit of disparity. Women working full-time year-round earn about 80% of what men do and there are marked differences between races as well. For example, a black man will earn roughly 73% of what a white man will, while a black woman will earn just 65%. A Hispanic man will earn 68%, with Hispanic women bringing in the lowest at just 58%.

One could argue that these people are working different jobs, particularly those with lower rates of pay and indeed, this is often the case. Data shows 62% percent of Hispanic women and 57% of black women work in service occupations and sales and office occupations. What’s important to recognize is that this doesn’t always have to do with education. For example, the stories of Jorden Berkeley and Zunade Powell. Though educated, the women failed to get callbacks after applying to jobs… that is, until they opted to use their less ethnic-sounding middle names on their resumes and CVs and found success. It is HR departments doing this, but if professionals are willing to admit there’s a problem, and second, prepared to make changes to the racial and gender inequality in the workplace, there is hope. 

Tip #1: Stop Using Employee Referral Programs

“Help is not given to just anyone, nor is it available from everyone,” says Nancy Ditmoso of Rutgers Business School. “Inequality reproduces itself because help is typically reserved for people who are ‘like me’: the people who live in my neighborhood, those who attend my church or school or those with whom I have worked in the past. It is only natural that when there are jobs to be had, people who know about them will tell the people who are close to them, those with whom they identify, and those who at some point can reciprocate the favor.”

What this means, in short, is that people are still largely segregated socially, and by hiring from within your employees’ circles, you’re perpetuating favoritism.

Tip #2: Provide Flexibility and Leave Options

Single mothers are head of household in anywhere from 5.9% of families (Asian Americans) to 21.6% of families (African Americans). Women, in general, are less-likely to work in an environment that offers paid family and medical leave, with Latinos and African Americans only having this opportunity 40.2% and 32.6% of the time, respectively. Unfortunately, women are the very same people who will statistically need time to take care of their families. Without it, they can’t hope to hold onto any position, as their family obligations will be barriers to quality employment opportunities. By simply offering flexible schedules or improved leave options, more women can work in these jobs.

Tip #3: Create Solid HR Policies and Request Employee Feedback

Recent research has shown that inequality in the workplace comes from multiple sources, such as leadership, climate, culture, strategy, and structure, yet at the heart of this lies HR policy which controls all aspects. Review your policies regularly for potential pitfalls and opportunities for growth. Send out employee surveys and genuinely listen to the feedback you hear as it relates to equality, fairness, and comfort in the office.

Get Help from the HR Source

Whether you need to hire a diverse staff or would like help overhauling your policies when dealing with racial and gender inequality in the workplace, we can help. Contact us for more information today.


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