Addressing systemic and institutional racism at work can lead to several benefits for both companies and employees, writes Jarell Bempong, psychotherapist, counsellor, life coach, public speaker, author and trainer.
- Because of the spread of white supremacy, people from ethnic minorities often have to deal with systemic and institutional racism at work.
- Employers have a moral obligation to address these issues by creating a workplace that fosters diversity and inclusion.
- Companies can reap several benefits from such initiatives: among many examples, people will be more interested and productive, boost morale and create a better work environment.
People from different racial and ethnic backgrounds work in various industries in the UK, but often have to deal with systemic and institutional racism at work, which can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
This essay will explore the concept of ‘white supremacy’ and its relationship with racism in the workplace, the impact of implicit bias on Black and other cultural minority staff, and strategies employers can adopt to create a culturally conscious and socially responsible workplace.
White supremacy and racism in the workplace
As a concept, white supremacy means that white people are better than people of other races and ethnicities. It is the cause of systemic racism, which is kept going by how society is set up and run. Racism in the workplace can be either overt or covert. The latter is harder to deal with. People who do not consider themselves to be racists but whose actions and decisions support systemic racism can perpetuate implicit bias, a learned bias that results from cultural conditioning.
Research has shown that Black and other cultural minority employees are more likely to face discrimination at work, such as being left out of training and development programmes, not getting promotions, and being the target of ‘microaggressions’. Employers are responsible for dealing with these problems and making the workplace an inclusive environment where diversity is respected and valued.
An illustration of the discrimination that Black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees experience: a 2022 report by the Trades Union Congress found that BAME workers in the UK are more likely to be working in low-paid and insecure jobs and are more likely to be subjected to workplace harassment and bullying. The report also found that BAME workers are less likely to be promoted to higher-paying positions despite being more qualified than their white counterparts.
Creating a culturally conscious and socially responsible workplace
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is a moral obligation and a strategic business move, which can improve employee engagement, innovation, and problem-solving, expand market reach and enhance brand reputation. To do so, employers must proactively seek to understand the experiences of Black and other cultural minority staff.
This requires examining organisational policies and practices to identify and address barriers that may prevent diverse perspectives and voices from being heard. By prioritising diversity and inclusion, employers can create a workplace culture that promotes equality, respect, and productivity for all employees.
Firstly, they can implement policies and procedures that explicitly prohibit racism and discrimination. This includes training staff on unconscious bias and promoting diversity and inclusion. Additionally, employers should also be actively engaged in creating a culturally conscious and socially responsible workplace by fostering intercultural dialogue and understanding.
Secondly, employers can ensure that processes are fair and transparent by addressing unconscious bias in recruitment and selection processes and actively seeking to increase the representation of Black and other cultural minority staff at all levels of the organisation.
Thirdly, employers can create a safe and supportive work environment for Black and other cultural minority staff by addressing incidents of racism and discrimination promptly, providing support to staff who have experienced racism, and ensuring that staff feel comfortable reporting incidents of racism without fear of retaliation.
An example of a culturally conscious approach
Unilever’s (NYSE:UL) Unstereotype initiative, launched in 2016, aimed to eliminate harmful stereotypes in advertising and promote diversity. In 2018, the company took this a step further with the launch of its ‘Act 2 Unstereotype’ initiative, which goes beyond advertising to challenge and transform the entire marketing process. The goal is to promote more inclusive thinking across all brands, from product development to advertising production.
Through the ‘Act 2 Unstereotype’ initiative, Unilever aims to create marketing that will help influence future generations to be free from prejudice. The company said it recognises the need to make real, structural changes to create a more diverse and inclusive marketing process. Unilever is committed to broadening its previous commitment to Unstereotype, and pushing for even deeper change that reflects its values of diversity and inclusivity.
Celebrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Celebrating Black and other cultural minority employees at work is important in creating an open workplace. This means recognising and appreciating all staff members’ contributions, regardless of race or ethnicity. Celebrating cultural diversity can include cultural events, promoting cultural awareness through training and education, and allowing staff to share their experiences and points of view.
An example of celebrating cultural diversity
Havas All In is a global diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) programme established in 2018 that engages all levels of the organisation to celebrate diversity. It focuses on engaging agencies through All In representatives or teams who lead initiatives important to their location. In 2020, 42 agencies started or continued 150 initiatives, marking progress in celebrating talent and supporting underrepresented employees.
Benefits of creating an inclusive workplace
Employers can create a sense of belonging and community among staff by valuing and celebrating cultural diversity. This can make people more interested and productive, boost morale, and create a better work environment, among the numerous benefits for both employees and organisations. Here are some examples:
1. Increased innovation and creativity
Diversity in the workplace brings together people from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Employees who feel comfortable and valued for their differences are more likely to share unique ideas and approaches. This leads to increased innovation and creativity, giving your organisation a competitive edge.
2. Improved problem-solving and decision-making
Inclusive workplaces encourage collaboration and open communication. Employees are more likely to share their thoughts and opinions, which can lead to better problem-solving and decision-making. Diverse teams can identify blind spots and consider a wider range of possibilities when working together.
3. Increased employee engagement and satisfaction
Inclusive workplaces foster a sense of belonging and value among employees. Employees who feel respected and included are more likely to be engaged and satisfied with their work. This can lead to increased productivity, retention, and loyalty.
4. Expanded market reach
Diversity in the workplace can help your organisation better understand and connect with a broader range of customers and clients. An inclusive workplace can help you tap into new markets and create more meaningful relationships with your existing customer base.
5. Enhanced reputation
Organisations prioritising diversity and inclusion have a better reputation in the community and among potential employees. This can help attract top talent and create positive brand recognition.
6. Reduced turnover and recruitment costs
Creating an inclusive workplace can reduce turnover and recruitment costs. Employees who feel valued and respected are likelier to stay with your organisation. This can save your organisation money on recruitment and training costs.
7. Compliance with legal requirements
Many countries have laws that require organisations to provide equal opportunities and prevent discrimination. Creating an inclusive workplace can help your organisation comply with legal requirements and avoid potential lawsuits.
In conclusion, racism and white supremacy in the workplace need to be dealt with in several ways. These include recognising and dealing with implicit bias, implementing policies and procedures that promote diversity and inclusion, and celebrating the different cultures in the workplace. White supremacy and racism are pervasive, and even people who do not consider themselves racists can contribute to them. Ultimately, creating an inclusive workplace can have numerous benefits for both employees and organisations.
The opinions of guest authors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of SG Voice.