Equality isn’t skin-deep; having a workforce that looks diverse doesn’t in and of itself ensure a level playing field. Ethnic minorities and women, for example, face different obstacles at work that prevent them from thriving.
According to a recent Glassdoor survey, Singaporean working women earn 13% less than their male counterparts, owing to persistent gender biases. Working mothers, especially, face much slower career growth and an even higher pay gap than men.
Similarly, a recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) indicated that while Singaporeans are generally accepting of racial diversity, minorities are experiencing a marginally greater amount of workplace discrimination today than in 2013.
A diverse workforce that doesn’t make different groups of people feel included is still unequal. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll look at 3 contributing factors to a lack of inclusiveness in diverse workplaces.
P.S. Learn how to create optimal conditions for diverse teams to thrive with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on managing cross-functional and culturally diverse teams!
Having a diverse workforce in terms of representation is only the first step to workplace equality. So often, though, companies think of it as the only step. Equality does not magically come into the picture with more inclusive hiring practices.
Once you have a more diverse team of people under your wing, the next step is making sure that they each feel a shared sense of belonging and ownership to the company and to the work they do. A workplace culture that makes certain groups of people feel left out is still failing in this regard.
People who feel excluded from the office culture, though, are far less likely to speak out about it, for fear of being further marginalised. Consequently, those who are on the receiving end of exclusion sweep under the rug, and those (intentionally or unintentionally) meting out exclusion remain oblivious to their complicity.
The benefits of workplace diversity rest heavily on the strength of relationships that employees share amongst one another. Empathy, for one, is a particularly salient effect of diverse workforces. However, it means little if the social networks connecting your employees aren’t strong enough.
People who only share a shallow working relationship with one another won’t feel that much of a need to empathise with one another. Conversely, the closer and stronger the friendships people have with their co-workers, regardless of race, gender, or other demographic factors, the likelier they are to empathise with and make the effort to understand each other.
In other words, these working relationships are what mediates the effect of workplace diversity on empathy. Ensuring good team bonding is the key to unlocking the transformational effects of diversity on empathy at work.
Office bullying is a serious problem that can destroy morale, teamwork, and employee engagement all at once. When you’ve got a diverse workforce under your care, though, the problem is compounded.
Both of these findings underscore the fact that minorities (gender, ethnic, sexual or otherwise) are particularly vulnerable to office bullying.
Condoning such practices in the office, or failing to act decisively against them, sends the message that they are less valuable and important to the company than the culprits. It may even convey the fact that the company itself does not prioritise employee welfare.
Either way, it creates and reinforces an exclusionary working environment, making people feel both unsafe and unwelcome at work.