As companies expand diversity and inclusion, they need to address racism and bias.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than 4 in 10 respondents say the U.S. still has progress to make when it comes to racial equality. Addressing concerns about racism and prejudice in the workplace should be an ongoing priority, especially as employers seek to increase diversity and inclusion. You can be a leader in creating and sustaining an inclusive culture where people feel safe, engaged, and respected the same as all of their peers.
The Pew survey suggests a gap between how white and black Americans view racial equality. For instance, 56% of white and 71% of black respondents say that race relations in the U.S. are generally bad. At the same time, 37% of white and 78% of black respondents say that the country hasn’t gone far enough in giving black people equal rights. Only 7% of white respondents believe that it’s not likely that black people will eventually have equal rights, while half of black respondents are doubtful about the future of equality. Respondents of all racial and ethnic groups generally agree that being white gives people an advantage in getting ahead. However, more black and Asian people (69% and 73%, respectively) say that this is true.
Over two-thirds of respondents across the board (65%) say that it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views since the last Presidential election. Nearly half (45%) say that these expressions have become more acceptable.
Some ways to combat racism and improve race relations in your organization include:
1. Address racial bias in employee surveys. Consider including questions about racial bias on employee engagement surveys. Do people feel that they are treated equally? Is work a safe space? Have they experienced or witnessed discrimination or racist comments?
2. Conduct racial bias training. Use what you learn in your employee surveys to determine what focus your training requires. Some organization choose to focus on implicit bias—how people view others based on how they were brought up and what they were taught. However, some experts suggest addressing racial bias as a whole, instead of categorizing it as implicit or explicit.
3. Create a safe space for honest conversation. Research suggests that when employees who feel safe honestly discussing racism and personal biases and how these affect their decision-making, these conversations have more lasting and significant impact. At the same time, leaders and managers who respond to racist incidents fairly and promptly are viewed more positively by black, white, Hispanic, and Asian professionals alike.
4. Establish a level playing field. Consider collecting internal data to target areas of possible bias and identify metrics to measure change (such as fewer absences, lower turnover, and/or fewer complaints/reports).
5. Reduce unconscious bias. Rewriting job descriptions, using software and artificial intelligence to screen applicants, and reviewing criteria for performance evaluations can help. At the same time, consider establishing objective criteria for decision-making to eliminate racial profiling and other behaviors.
6. Know the law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and/or religion. HR is responsible for investigating all reports of harassment or discrimination. Employees who can prove discrimination are entitled to lost wages and benefits and can seek punitive and compensatory damages.