You have an unconscious bias. This is deep-set, this is innate and inevitable. But you also are given liberation in your choices. This choice determines whether you catalyze discrimination, or proactively act on decisions that form habits to become more inclusive. In these choices, you should acknowledge your own privilege, and utilize this to become active advocates for equity within your communities, and soon- your workplace.
This month, CSRS focuses on “People” and it would be unjust to not address the various barriers to success many marginalized individuals face while in the corporate world. In the current era of globalization and the rising awareness of movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter, we - Gen Z - are at the forefront in a shift in humanity.
We can blame large corporations, society and previous generations for the dysphoria we have for racism, ableism, ageism, sexism, and every other “-ism” or “-phobia” we face, but what keeps me up at night is the lack of action towards change. WE are society, WE will determine how the future unravels, and WE have a choice to succumb or be salient.
All this being said, learning about workplace diversity, privilege and other systemic issues is not a one time lesson. Instead, it is a constant and continuous experience, wherein you must keep learning, reading, and thinking critically to educate yourself. This post is not - nor is it meant to be - a comprehensive piece on diversity, rather a foundation for the basics. Beyond this, it is up to you to educate yourself and your world.
Workplace Diversity & Why you Should Care
- There are almost as many men named “John” in American leadership than there are women in executive roles.
- In 2016, a study revealed that white names got 50% more call-backs than the black names
- Out of 4,602 American adults found that 56% of men believe that, for the most part, many of the obstacles that once made it harder for women to “get ahead” have been eliminated
- 80% of the transgender population who were employed in 2015 experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, or took steps to avoid it.
- Nearly two-thirds (62%) of LGBT employees heard lesbian and gay jokes at work, while 43% heard bisexual jokes and 40% heard transgender jokes.
These statistics are non-exhaustive, and hint at the misconceptions, intersectionality, and socio-economic barriers that prevent people from fully maximizing their potential.
Workplace diversity is composed of teams that are different in aspects such as education, religion, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic backgrounds. Let’s talk business: this translates into diversity of thought, increased innovation, ultimately leading to generating 2.3x more cash flow per employee, 1.4x more revenue, and are 120% more capable of meeting financial targets.
You likely have privilege. So do I. If you’re reading this from your laptop or phone, you have privilege. If you see people who look like you in mainstream media, you have privilege. But this isn’t an attack - and it’s nothing to be threatened by. What does it really mean to ‘check your privilege’ and why is it important?
What is Privilege?
Simply put, privilege refers to the advantages that a certain societal group has, most of which are entirely unnoticed or taken for granted. Society grants privileges to people based on factors that comprise their identity, and some of these include race, class, gender, sexual orientation, language, geographical location, ability, and religion.
Why is it important?
Checking your privilege isn’t an attack, but a reminder. It’s a reminder that you may not completely understand a marginalized group’s experience based on your identity. It is also a reminder to take time to educate yourself on their experiences.
Recognizing privilege is crucial, because pretending that the system of privilege doesn’t exist is dangerous.
Recognizing privilege is not meant to make you feel guilty and it isn’t invalidating any hardships you have experienced. You may benefit from male privilege, but struggle with your experiences as a disabled man.
Recognizing privilege also means being aware that some people must work harder for the same opportunities that you take for granted. In fact, these opportunities may never become a reality for them.
Recognizing privilege means going beyond equality, and striving for equity. The difference is simply explained here:
Equality: Every member of the soccer team gets the same size cleats.
Equity: Every member of the soccer team gets cleats, but customized to fit them.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS?
E D U C A T E. We are what we surround ourselves with. The antidote to ignorance is the pursuit of knowledge. As young leaders, we must leverage the tools before us, and you’ve already taken the first step by reading this!
Support inclusive organizations. As consumers, we have the power to lead the market trends and by actively choosing ethical and inclusive organizations. We can guide better business practices.
Use social media as a platform to spread awareness of diversity. As Gen Z, we are fully tapped into a whole new information sharing platform, and we feed the world our own opinions/thoughts. Bring value to your likes, shares and retweets. Make the world a better place.
Acknowledge your privilege and use it to empower others. For example, lead with empathy and learn about the experiences of others, don’t invalidate them and speak up.
Keep up-to-date with current world news. The world is a dynamic place, and being informed is crucial to participate in intelligent conversations.
Join clubs and organizations that promote diversity. Some clubs to start you off are EDGE: Diversity in Leadership & CSRS!
Research diverse companies to work for. Find companies that hold values that align with your own and provide platforms and various initiatives that promote diversity.
Seek out Mentorship Programs. One of the best ways to learn about your industry or dream job is to learn from people immersed in the position. Mentorship programs can provide unparalleled experiences that may ultimately help you in your career decisions.
Don’t underestimate the importance of workplace culture. Your workplace is a unique environment that can either make your job amazing or toxic. Recognize the elements of a work culture that are important to you and seek these in your job search. Remember that cultural diversity drives innovation.
Ask Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about diversity in the workplace. If there’s discomfort in discussing these issues, there’s likely progress to be made. Question whether policies provide an equitable environment for all.
Gen Z, you have the power to challenge stereotypes by dismantling dangerous preconceived notions. You should encourage diversity in your surroundings because homogeneity is a weakness, both morally and in a business perspective. This is done by recognizing that all have their individual and communal battles and to achieve true equity, oppression must be non-existent. To advocate for this movement, we must develop habits around inclusion for all people and along the way, become the role models you wished you had. This is just an introduction to the multi-faceted layers of the discussion on diversity and inclusion, but we hope that it ignites an interest to be involved in the conversation as a first step. Perhaps in our lifetime we could achieve a reality where top leadership and the elite decision-makers of society would be reflective of the masses at all levels. We believe young leaders are in a pivotal stage to make important choices that will be indicative of the legacy our generation leaves.