Are practices promoting racial equality in the workplace really the best practices? Not many employees of color would agree. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted two surveys, wherein black workers and white workers in the United States were polled on their experiences in the office as they pertain to race. These experiences included everything from employees’ comfort in discussing racial issues while at work to feeling that their employer has created a space to discuss such issues, as well as the promotion of racial equality both in the workplace and in the world at large. The results showed “significant gaps” between employees’ perceptions by group.
In June 2020, the organization highlighted their findings in the journey to close the race pay gap, as black workers were still earning far less than white workers within the same positions. While this has been an ongoing struggle in the fight for pay equity, other factors have affected the workplace with regard to race. With the ongoing pandemic and a growing awareness of racial injustice, there is a greater onus placed upon employers not only to address racial issues within the workplace, but also to address issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEI&A) beyond pay. The results of these surveys demonstrate a significant divergence in the points of view of black and white employees. The SHRM’s Journey To Equity and Inclusion Report showed that while 35% of black employees felt that racial discrimination and inequity still existed in the workplace, only 7% of white employees felt the same way. Further, while 29% of white employees expect more from their companies pertaining to racial injustice, black employees are nearly double that percentage. Evenly, 37% of both black and white workers do not feel comfortable discussing these issues within their workplace, while 42% of white workers and 38% of black workers feel these conversations shouldn’t be had at work altogether. 46% of black workers feel that the workplace is not doing nearly enough to advance black employees within their careers, a view shared by only 21% of white workers.
These surveys’ findings are derived from the perspectives of the workers themselves. Ultimately, it’s clear that there’s a substantial difference in the perspectives of black and white employees, underscoring difficulties in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in instances where one segment of the workforce feels that enough is already being done and another feels that much more is needed.
Undoubtedly, findings such as these are a wake-up call for CEOs and other executives to observe how their employees are feeling. This, at the very least, will allow the top brass to navigate accordingly as they continue their missions for equal pay and lean toward more game-changing measures in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their respective workplaces. As these new surveys reveal, employees’ current silence on these issues reflects a reluctance to bring these conversations to the table—where real change happens.
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