Diversity in the Workplace: Identifying Diversity Issues in Your Business
By Rebecca Ferlotti
With so much existing and blossoming talent in the workforce, workforce diversity shouldn’t be a problem; yet, many companies, reluctant to update their diversity policies and cast a wider hiring net, are systemically preventing diversity expansion. Consequently, companies are losing top talent, or not even recognizing top talent in the first place.
Cultural, age, lifestyle, ability, and gender diversity are areas of inclusion many businesses do not consider when hiring for “fit.” To begin to fix the issue of a uniform workforce, we have to attack the issue from its roots, first identifying the types of diversity issues our companies face.
Cultural diversity includes race, religion, and native language. Companies lacking in cultural diversity tend to have a predominantly white, Christian workforce who are native English speakers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates for many minority groups are higher than the overall unemployment rate as of January 2019. While Asian workers had the lowest unemployment rate (3.1%) after white workers (3.5%), Asian individuals also make up a smaller portion of the U.S. population than white Americans as a whole.
As of 2019, a total of five generations are now in the workforce together, from Generation Z up through the Silent Generation. This can cause clashes, but it also allows for businesses to capitalize on complementary skill sets. However, employers may lose out on those skill sets because they favor hiring one group over another, such as choosing a younger candidate over a seasoned professional due to perceived expense. Alternatively, seasoned professionals may also discriminate against younger employees because they believe the younger employees are entitled or inexperienced.
Lifestyle diversity mainly refers to sexuality, but it can also encompass other lifestyle situations, such as single parenthood or cohabitation. When companies discriminate against employees or job candidates with different lifestyles, they can lead employees to be less productive. In an Out Now study, 28% of LGBTQIA+ respondents had been less productive in a previous role they held because they weren’t able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Companies that promote ableism do it in subtle ways. They may have buildings without elevator access or a lack of wheelchair ramps, for example. Individuals ages 16 to 64 with physical and/or mental disabilities have a higher rate of unemployment (19.2%) than those with no disability (8.5%). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped to eradicate this type of discrimination; however, there is much more progress to be made.
Women in general, are still paid $0.82 to the dollar of every man. (The number is much lower for women of color.) Companies should aim to hire or promote female-identifying C-level employees, which not only increases diversity, but also a company’s bottom line. Currently, women make up only 23% of C-level employees, with white men in 68% of C-level spots.
Companies can take steps towards fostering an inclusive environment by developing a diversity inclusion plan. Sit down with your team and identify what issues you’re having with regard to diversity. Then, move forward with a plan. And when employees, even CEOs, violate a diversity policy, others should hold them accountable. Stay tuned for more advantages to a diverse workforce, as we continue to explore diversity in the workplace over the coming weeks.