Equality in the workplace is one of the most important factors that will define the quality of your work life. Whether you work in-house or on a contract basis, equality is a necessity that every individual must enjoy. Being treated unfavorably every day owing to who they are, where they’re from, or what they look like is unfair and shouldn’t exist at all. Even though we have laws in place to prevent discrimination of any form, discrimination is still prevalent to a certain extent everywhere.
What is Equality?
In its simplest form equality may be defined as a lack of discrimination. People discriminate or are discriminated against on the basis of many things be it their race, gender, religion, or even age. It is important to remember that equality doesn’t necessarily translate to equal treatment for everybody. Rather it is meeting the needs of your employees and respecting the different things they bring to the table. This can only be done if we set up the workplace with equality and diversity in mind from the get-go.
There are many workplace discrimination examples that come to mind when we think about our day-to-day professional experience. An example of workplace inequality would be if a woman is questioned about her pregnancy during a job interview and is discriminated against in the hiring process because the employer does not want to cover the maternity leave: a basic right given to an employee.
Another example would be if a company employs a diverse group of people in lower-level positions but they hire majority white or male workers in upper management positions. A Harvard Business Review study found that 78% of employees who responded to the survey said they work at organizations that lack diversity in leadership positions. Many people of color in professional life do not see people from a similar background rising to higher-level positions.
Benefits of Equality in the Workplace
Having an equitable workplace is good for business as well. Of course, the core motivation in setting up an equitable workplace should be on moral grounds rather than concerns about profit, but it does not hurt to mention that happier employees would lead to a more productive work environment. Here are some of the perks that would come with having equality in the workplace.
Attracting Top Talent
If a company or a brand has a reputation for having a great company culture with regards to diversity, anti-discrimination, and equality, it will attract the best people who will in turn contribute to building a great community at work.
Tapping into New Markets
If a business is committed to equality, this will reflect in their hiring process, work ethic and will lend itself to creating new networks and connections through diverse people who work there.
Gaining New Skills
Working in teams with people who come from different backgrounds can be challenging and a great learning opportunity for everyone involved. A recent study by decision-making platform Cloverpop found a direct link between inclusive decision-making and improved business performance. Diverse teams, based on gender, age, and geography, made better business decisions 87% of the time.
How to Attain an Equitable Workplace
It is great in theory but how does one achieve equality in the workplace in practice. Here are some ideas to attain an equitable workplace.
Hiring Based on Objective Criteria
It has to start from the very beginning. In the HR department. The job postings, interviews, and evaluation processes are all within the purview. Studies found that the way HR departments word some job postings were targeted towards men while alienating women. There is even an online tool for you to check any job posting for gender bias (http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com/)
Another important thing to remember is that if you receive massive amounts of applications and use applicant tracking systems to sort through these applications, then you have to be extra careful not to inadvertently eliminate candidates on a discriminatory basis. Many of these tools were found to be discriminating against women and people of color. (And of course, sadly women of color being at the intersection were receiving the worst of it.)
To have an equitable workplace, we have to accept that we do not start from the same place. Everyone has a different life experience and some people may be less educated about matters of discrimination most times due to their privileged positions. It is important to make space for learning. Create mentorship and training opportunities for your staff to learn more about each other.
An important note here is to not rely on the people of color in the office to do this teaching. If they volunteer their time or you offer them monetary compensation for this optional extra work that you are asking them to do, these are the only acceptable times in which they would be doing the training programs. On the other hand, if you are a person of color or any other member of a minority community and you are being asked to do a teach-in for your coworkers without any compensation for your time and effort, feel free to either say no or ask for compensation.
No Wage Gap
One of the very first real changes to implement to get to an equitable workplace would be to eliminate the wage gap. The wage gap is the difference in wages between people who do the same job for different amounts of money based on their race or gender. So a white man getting paid more than a white woman who is getting paid more than a black woman all for doing the same thing. It is one of the most important steps in committing to equality in the workplace.
If an employee has an issue with someone at the workplace, there need to be clear policies in place, a system and a procedure to report and follow up, and appropriate measures need to be taken. These policies should be communicated to all people working at the company at the very start of their employment as well as regularly reminded.
Get Consultancy if Necessary
Lastly, there are businesses whose job is to review a company’s culture, policies, and practice to offer you solutions for anti-discrimination and equality in the workplace. If there are issues that cannot be solved internally, you can always ask for help from professionals.