Corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Hiding Our Whole Selves at Work

It’s funny, but even during my research on bias and discrimination in the corporate workplace, I primarily ran into content regarding gender bias. These numbers are compelling and the research is important, of course. But when someone looks up “unconscious bias in the corporate world,” they should see more than the research on gender bias. They should see the information on the other marginalized groups fighting for their presence in corporate. 

For people sitting at different intersections of two or more marginalized groups, their corporate experience is even worse. Our different intersectionalities flavor our experiences, and unless you’re white, cis-male, and able, it’s likely you’ve suffered from bias and discrimination in one way or another. 

Taking Off The White, Cis, or Able-Bodied Rose Colored Glasses

You could be wearing one, two, three (or more) sets of these glasses. All of us have biases, but we can learn how to spot and counter them. But first, how do these biases present in many different corporate workspaces? 

Our Society Isn’t As Abled As You Might Think

Research from the Center for Talent Innovation showed that among college-educated white-collar employees, 30% have a disability that fits the federal definition. Whether visible or invisible, only 39% will report them to their manager, 24% to their team, and 21% to human resources.

Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation Has Nothing to Do With Professional Ability, But… 

91% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. But 20% of LGBTQIA+ Americans have faced discrimination while looking for work, and more than 50% have heard gay and lesbian jokes in the workplace. 

LGBTQIA+ employees also don’t see themselves reflected at the highest levels of their organization. 0.3% of Fortune 500 board directors are openly LGBTQIA+, so it’s not a surprise that almost half are “in the closet” while at work. When we can’t fully be ourselves at work, there’s a lot of talent left on the table. 

Women Don’t Belong Just At Home, And They’re Fighting To Be In The Office

We’re seeing more representation for women in company C-suites, but we’re losing them at the managerial level. Many women still feel as if their gender is holding them back from succeeding at the same pace as men in their organization. 

In the last 5 years, the number of women in C-suites has gone up 24%, but the representation of women and women of color has seen little change. Gender parity will stay out of reach until we can support women at all levels of our organizations. 

The Color of Our Skin Doesn’t Reflect The Content of Our Mind

We talked a bit about the lack of minority-owned and women-owned business owners who are able to get funding in a previous blog post. But what about the people of color who struggle to bring their whole selves to work? 

There are only five black Fortune 500 CEOs, and only 3.2% of managers are black. As I mentioned in our post on economic equity, the difference in white and minority income is startling. And that’s even among employees in similar positions. White men are paid 13% and 39% more than black men and women, respectively. 

If Everyone Has Unconscious Bias, What Do We Do?

We need to create corporate cultures where it’s okay to speak up. Companies are making moves to do just that, but Dr. Aparajita Jeedigunta, the creator of the C3EB Summit and founder of AJ Rao, LLC, explained where we usually get it wrong. 

“It’s not just about the procedures. That’s the second step. The people have to come first. We have to develop whole-person, conscientious leaders who are actively engaged with their teams. Who learn, accept feedback, advocate for their people. They make sure every single voice is heard in their own way. People make procedures and systems, not the other way around. Yet we think about it backwards when we think of change.”

How many people in marginalized groups have been moved to a different department after filing a complaint? They’re moved because a transfer is easier than sitting the offending party down and explaining what they did wrong. Companies have to build cultures of transparency, and it starts at the top. 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can bring transparency and candor into your organization so your employees can bring their full selves to work, sign up for the Culturally Competent Conversations for Equity and Belongingness (C3EB) Summit. 

Register here!


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