Do you find yourself at work to play a role in delivering a culturally appropriate experience for your colleagues? If not, try picking up a copy of the American Psychological Association’s June 2017 report – A Woman of Color Cannot Save Your Workplace Culture.
The report claims that employers risk alienating talent, consumers, and other key stakeholders. Interestingly, half of the women polled said they were members of racial/ethnic minority groups and may be trying to fit into the rigidly held notion of the norm, referred to as the standard of American workplace culture. The issue of women seeking to fit in should be a powerful lesson for employers to rethink and revise their attitudes and policies.
The survey addressed the inner environment of the workplace, rather than the outside of it. More than 55% of those polled said they thought there were some workplaces that led to “underperformance”, and half said they agreed that diversity, equality, and inclusion was an important element of a successful, inclusive work environment.
As per the article, only 11% of the women polled said they felt accepted in their companies by co-workers or supervisors, and only 2% said that they felt included in their organizations.
A lack of positive relationships formed between managers and employees could lead to higher turnover, low productivity, and distracted employees who are more likely to leave a company. The report makes clear that, “Unlike many social justice and equality issues that initially took on a gender angle, many the core concerns reflected in the gender disparities have gender impacts.”
In regards to the main reasons that women cite for leaving a company, and why they are so often lost at their organizations, the most common reason for employees who leave is that they can’t have an equitable organizational structure: one which works for them as well as their colleagues and customers.
The next is the fact that there are either a disproportionate number of women or white and male managers, who are not equal in their number or amount of exposure to people of other backgrounds. The third main reason women give is that there is a “tendency to hold the line” in regards to the gender norms and practices.
Finally, the report finds that the percentage of female employees in manufacturing, which employs 80% of women in the U.S., has been decreasing, whereas women’s numbers in the service sector are increasing.
When it comes to workplaces, particularly those in manufacturing, employment experts define an inclusive culture as one which “encourages women to seek equality at work.” For example, women can opt out of manual labor jobs and more toward permanent jobs and careers. In companies, where there are some but not majority of male managers, or even the opposite, the company may set a culture of Inclusion, acknowledging that women are not unique in their careers.
One of the main areas that need improvement in terms of greater diversity in industries that are usually male dominated is the recruitment process. Corporate recruiters need to expand their search beyond white men. One study suggests that 40% of the workforce in manufacturing is female, yet the pay scale of manufacturing employees has historically been lower.
Here in the U.S., companies which are actively promoting workplace equality and integrating women are doing a better job of attracting talent. For example, when General Motors offered a $2,000 bonus for every person that worked at the company, they doubled the response rate.
Another example is what happened with Amazon. This tech giant made a big splash when they began paying women more and finally admitted that many of the issues seen in their industry were the result of historical bias and inequality. This news took on a life of its own in the field. It became not only about women, but about gender and the causes for discrimination.
Regardless of gender, the issue of working conditions, having an equitable workplace, and whether there is enough flexibility is something we are all dealing with today. There are no simple answers. Organizational cultures, even when they work to be inclusive, still operate under certain rules and expectations. There is still a way to go. If and when we can get to the place where all of us are treated equally, we are witnessing a shift in power. This is a step in the right direction.