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From Exclusion to Inclusion: The Mind Shift Necessary to Improve Workplace Equality
In many ways, working standards have made vast improvements compared to just a few decades ago. The working population is more significant than ever, work benefits have become more available, and we even have flexible options for work, like the remote and hybrid models. However, despite these modern advancements, one element of history lingers in the workplace: inequality among workers. There is still the fact that some workers have privileges that other workers do not have, which leads to unfair treatment and opportunities within the workplace. A prime example of this is the gender pay gap and the unrealistic expectations of working women.
Another pressing issue of inequality is race. While the issues regarding discrimination based on race should be a distant memory by now, employees belonging to minority groups still feel the pressure to over-perform and prove themselves in the workplace
In honor of Black History Month, we aim to inform employers of the issues workers of color face in predominantly nonminority environments. So let’s explore this issue further to promote awareness and hopefully spark some much-needed change:
How Being a “First” Employee of Color Affects Mental Health
When a person of color is the first nonminority employee in their company, they often feel additional pressure to perform. This need to over-perform can create extra pressure, which usually affects the employee’s mental health in various ways. Additionally, when there is a lack of diversity in the workplace, minority workers are at risk of feeling excluded, decreased motivation, and other pressures that lead to burnout – amongst other mental health concerns.
Mental health support catered to the issues that employees of color may endure is a fundamental element to ensure their sustained wellness. Especially true when employees of color are a minority group in the workplace, it is taboo to voice concerns about their discomfort at work openly. Having additional support available can help normalize awareness of such issues and destigmatize the negative notion of seeking help.
While companies are working harder than ever to create more inclusive work environments, there is still a stigma on workplace discrimination that leads to low workplace morale, lack of inclusion, and employee productivity.
What Employers Can Do to Foster Inclusivity and Equality
Committing to diversity as a company is easy but taking action is challenging. Cultivating an inclusive workplace starts from the top, as with any culture change. Leaders need to do their part to display inclusion and awareness. Making diversity, a company goal should be the first step for movement. This will help leaders and management acknowledge the issue and focus on providing support and initiatives to see progress.
Initiatives include supporting employees’ mental health via talk groups and training, empowering employees to air grievances freely, and promoting inclusivity through team activities.
Whether conscious or not, race should not be a deciding factor in hiring. While no employer will actively deny an employee based on race, statistics in many markets show a disproportionate number of nonminority employees.
In the end, we’ve made leaps and bounds as a society in the fight for equal rights. However, more work is always done as we collectively pursue Dr. King’s vision of a society where people are judged by their character and abilities and not their race, gender, age, religion, or ethnicity. In today’s diverse employee-driven market, DEI cannot be ignored. Leaders must recognize this as a strategic initiative and continue to improve, especially for the nonminority’s first in their workplace environment.
For Black History Month and beyond, it’s time to start making equality in the workplace a priority. An inclusive workplace is a crucial factor in establishing a healthy work atmosphere, and more importantly – the well-being of employees.