Article: Supporting underrepresented groups at work


Supporting underrepresented groups at work

While the world has made tremendous progress in fostering diverse and inclusive workspaces, many demographics remain underrepresented in the professional setting today.
Supporting underrepresented groups at work

The importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Inclusion is an indispensable feature of a modern workplace. It provides a work environment where all people get equal opportunities and fair treatment, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or status in life and the society at large. It makes diversity work by making sure everyone feels safe and everyone gets an equal amount of support from the company.

A compilation of studies by LinkedIn shows that diverse teams make better business decision 87 percent of the time, while inclusive teams are 35 percent more productive than those that aren’t. These figures only show that diversity and inclusion are not just causes that enhance reputation, but a strategy that makes a strong impact in an organization.

One concrete example of how inclusion helps companies in today’s business environment is by expanding an organization’s talent reach. Companies that actively implement inclusion strategies in sourcing and attracting talent tend to be open to expand their search to geographies and demographics that traditional organizations ignore.

A diverse and inclusive workplace is also a fertile ground for ideas. With people coming from different backgrounds, perspectives, and beliefs, companies tend to generate ideas, strategies, and campaigns that have more depth. This is important especially today when businesses tend to cater to a more diverse customer, whether it’s global or within the region.

READ MORE: Why are companies failing to deliver on DEI promises?

Who makes the underrepresented groups in the workplace

While the world has made tremendous progress in fostering diverse and inclusive workspaces, many demographics remain underrepresented in the professional setting today. Women, people of color, indigenous people, LGBTQ+ employees, people with disabilities, and other historically oppressed groups remain marginalize in most professional work environments.

People in disabilities, in particular, are struggling securing stable jobs, even though multiple studies have shown that individuals living with cognitive, physical, or emotional disability are among the best contributors at work across industries. Most companies do welcome disabled people to their workforce, but only to reach a certain “quota.”

But the landscape is changing. Multiple studies have spotted a major demographic shift in Western business. A report by the Pew Research center recently showed that nearly half of Generation Z people in the US do not identify as white. The 2020 census affirmed this report, showing that the number of individuals who identify as white or non-Hispanic has dropped below 58 percent.

These numbers only shows that organizations today should prepare for the inevitable future where diversity and inclusion are basic features of every successful company. Refusing to take active steps in ensuring the place of today’s underrepresented monitories at work is like refusing to adapt, evolve, grow, and succeed.

READ MORE: Why women's empowerment starts with an internal shift

Challenges faced by underrepresented employees

While the future seems to be bright for workplace minorities, they continue to face challenges in the professional setting today. And one of these long-standing challenges is pay inequality. A 2023 Pew Research report revealed that gender pay equality in the US didn’t change much in the last two decades, with women only averaging 82 percent of what men earned.

Even people of color suffer the same fate as an Economic Polic Institute study showed that the average black worker in the US earned 24.4 percent less per hour compared to the white worker, which is worse than the 16 percent recorded in 1969. The study further revealed than black workers suffer wider pay gaps if they live or work in the Southern states.

Underrepresented groups also face limited career growth. To date, out of over 680 Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies, only 10 percent reported to have a racially diverse leadership, according to the 2021 Crist|Kolder Associates Volatility report. The study further noted a rise in the number Hispanic-Latinx CEOs in the last four years while the number of blacks and Asians leaders remain virtually stagnant.

A separate study by the LinkedIn Economic Graph showed that globally, less than third of leadership positions are held by women. Furthermore, among all industries, the technology, information, and media spaces are the ones that display the underrepresentation of women in the leadership roles. The numbers are improving, but more active efforts are needed to put the momentum in full-swing.

Perhaps the scariest challenge faced by minorities in the workplace is hostility. In this context, hostility can range from physical and verbal harassment to acts of microaggression like biases in communication, discrimination, silent treatment, and more. A large part of this is usually unreported, but the few ones that make the news only show that workplace hostility against minorities still exists.

READ MORE: Targeting 30% leadership from underrepresented groups by 2030

How to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace

Building a diverse and inclusive workplace requires, first and foremost, a shift in perspective. Most leaders fall into the trap of reducing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts to mere statistics instead of recognizing them as long-term strategies for growth, or an inevitable part of evolving with the ever-changing market.

From an operational standpoint, fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace should start with the hiring process. Human resource leaders should conduct a thorough review of the company’s current sourcing, talent attraction, recruitment, and onboarding processes to ensure that they are reaching diverse talent pools – a task that requires time, resources, and significant effort across the board.

READ MORE: Keeping 'human as a whole' approach at workplace

The next facet of business that HR leaders need to look at is the career growth opportunities within the organization. Most traditional models require a bit of rewiring to give underrepresented groups at work an equal chance to grow their careers within the company. Enacting policies and programs, with the support of higher management, will help HR achieve this goal.

And since these efforts need a supportive leadership, an extensive training in the DE&I realm. Most leaders, especially the ones who come from an older generation, do not know the nuances in engaging with people of different genders and color. Educating leaders about the value of supporting underrepresented workers is the key in making your DE&I efforts more impactful.

Lastly, leaders must make an active effort to integrate diversity and inclusion in the company’s values and overall culture. From the little things, like office layouts and internal communications, to the bigger ones, like rewards and recognition programs and engagement activities, HR leaders

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Topics: Diversity

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