Workplace bias abounds

The days of politically correct multiculturalism have not contributed to the end of bias. Workplace discrimination is alive and kicking, and statistics of job-related bias against African Americans and women remain eye-opening.

One in five professionals knows someone who has suffered inequity on the job, according to a recent national survey of nearly 1,900 professionals conducted by Hudson, a worldwide professional staffing firm and division of Hudson Highland Group Inc. Despite that nearly half of African Americans surveyed said their employers actively promote diversity, more than 31% can name someone who has been on the receiving end of racial discrimination. By comparison, only 18% of Caucasian employees were able to say the same. Furthermore, nearly 25% of workers know someone who has experienced gender discrimination at work.

Workplace multicultural initiatives have been a priority for most companies over the last quarter-century. So why have some companies still failed to effectively implement diversity? Billy Dexter, president of New York-based Hudson Inclusion Solutions, offers three reasons: lack of support from leadership, no clearly defined business case for diversity, and a general intolerance of differences. (See Diversity Roundtable.)

“For an organization to embrace diversity, it must be supported from senior leadership and built into the foundation of the organization. Companies need to appreciate and value the unique differences, perspectives, and experiences of every employee,” says Dexter. “Then, they must translate that understanding into a clear strategy for diversity infusion into the business model. They must create a culture of inclusion — an environment that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed.”

Steven L. Katz, a Maryland-based organizational consultant on issues of discrimination and workplace rights, seconds Dexter’s leadership emphasis. “If something is not a business or organizational priority to the person or people at the top of the organization, it will not become important to the organization as a matter of policy,” he says.

Katz maintains that a primary reason companies do not diversify is as simple as it is sobering: they just have no desire to. “Separate from the historical development of diversity policies, what might make a person at the top care enough to make sure that their company has an active diversity program? And what would that involve?”