Table of contents
- Inequalities and Discrimination in the Workplace
- Racial Inequality
- Gender Inequality
- Pay Disparity
This paper explores the many challenges minorities’ face in the workplace. Over the past 100 years African-Americans have struggled with being considered as equal as the white counterpart and women as equal to the male gender, in life and at work. African-American minorities have made major educational and career advances, but still struggle significantly with equality in pay and promotions in the workplace. Discrimination against minority groups starts outside of the workplace and it is a major issue still relevant today in the U.S. To understand how discrimination still has a place in the modern day workplace, we must first analyze how it remains a huge part of our day-to-day culture. This paper goes on to discuss the wage gap between a gender and race, the disproportion of African-American and female leaders within top executive positions, how to implement several strategies to remedy these inequalities, and the benefits to the workforce for doing so.
Inequalities and Discrimination in the Workplace
There is a deeply ingrained problem in our society; black and whites nor females and males are truly treated equally. The 13th amendment abolished slavery in 1865 and three years later the 14th amendment was created to grant equal protection of laws to the same group of people. In 1870, the 15th amendment gives African American males the right to vote and in 1920 the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. Despite the promises of these new laws, the former slaves and their descendants, along with other racial and ethnic minorities, did not receive equal treatment under the law (“Civil Rights: Law and History,” n.d.). Why is racial and gender inequality still major problems in the workplace today? Why does the wage gap still exist? What strategies can be implemented by organizations to reduce inequalities? These topics will be discussed and addressed in this paper.
It is important to understand that there is no group of people in the U.S. that has been treated equal to the white male. For years, minorities have battled to be considered equal to white men in life and the workplace. African-Americans have always been a part of the U.S. workforce at first as unpaid slaves, this fact shapes the evolution of African-Americans and the racial inequality still felt by many today. The slow progression of racial equality within the workplace lead to the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC is responsible for enforcing, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race or color in any aspect of employment (“African-Americans in the American Workforce,” n.d.). There are many benefits to the EEOC, it holds companies accountable for recruitment, hiring, work assignments and promotions to ensure that their employment practices do not enable discrimination. Kilhefner (2016) explained:
Racial inequality in the workplace isn't always an issue of simply who is and isn't hired it can also be about who is promoted and who can move into positions of power. Discrimination may not always be obvious, as it can take on forms that appear fair in practice but have disparaging effects on minorities within the workplace, or even the industry. Discrimination limits employees in their access to superior positions and their career advancement.
Employers have a responsibility to employees to ensure that everyone is created equally within the organization and must be intentional about reducing racial inequality.
There are five important components to reducing inequalities which are recruitment/promotions, trainings, company policy, diversity awareness/initiatives, and behaviors. Developing a recruitment strategy that promotes workplace diversity is an effective way to improve attitudes about employees who represent different races and cultures (Mayhew, 2016). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission strongly recommends that employers provide training to employees about unfair employment practices and laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace (Mayhew, 2016). It is imperative that all employees at every level understand that discrimination is an unlawful act and it will not be tolerated within the organization. Human resources professionals are responsible for developing policies that will benefit the organizations in many ways. A written company policy states where the company stands, and the values it believes in. Enforcing a zero tolerance workplace rule is the best way to minimize the incidence of racism and discrimination (Mayhew, 2016). According to Mayhew (2016), diversity awareness programs focus more on the factors that improve workplace relationships such as mutual respect and appreciation for differences as well as similarities. Implementing diversity programs and initiatives helps with the progression of an inclusive corporate culture. Lastly, behaviors exemplified by upper management of disapproval for discrimination is important for everyone to see. Upper management's behavior sets the tone for employees, who often emulate the positive work habits and practices that leader’s exhibit (Mayhew, 2016). Racial inequality remains a major problem in the workplace because organizations are not focusing on the issue at hand. Eliminating racial inequality from an organization is an ongoing strategic process, and the company must allocate time and resources to make certain it is successful.
Women are 50.8 percent if the U.S. population. In 2017, there were 75,175,000 women aged 16 and over in the labor force, representing 46.9% of the total labor force (Catalyst, 2018). In comparison to men, women are represented almost equally in total percentage of population to the workforce, and the percentages of low and mid-level positions. Men are promoted to first-level managerial positions 30% more often than women, according to a new study released by McKinsey & Co. and Lean In (Noman, 2016). As we climb the ladder for management levels, the gap widens although women have been earning more degrees than men for decades. Women statistically have fewer chances of obtaining top level positions and earn less than men doing the same jobs at every level. The corporate world was male dominated for some time, but women claimed their stake because they deserved equal treatment to their male peers.
Gender inequality starts before a generation enters the workforce, like racial inequality. At times, young girls in school or at home are not supported or discouraged when choosing challenging careers. This habit needs to change, regardless of one’s race, gender, disability, religious belief, etc., all people should be supported and encourage to their aspirations. Rejecting this ugly pattern will help our future generations decrease or fully eliminate gender inequality when they enter the workforce.
Facing our issues with the current workforce, there are strategies to help decrease gender inequality. Companies should state that they want to hire, support and promote women (Trachsel, 2014). Having a written document of goals and objectives lets employees, stockholders, customers, etc., know where a company stands on certain issues and how they plan to remedy the issue. Make flexibility and work-life balance a part of the wider company culture (Trachsel, 2014). Work-life balance is a very significant factor in today’s workforce that affects employee morale, especially to women who are mothers. A work-life balance ensures you can be the best parent and role model to your child, while also excelling in your position at work. It is essential that organizations does not limit their talent pool, the most qualified candidate should always be hired. Organizations should aim for a 50-50 gender split in all their teams – right up to the executive floor (Trachsel, 2014). Addressed are just a few strategies employers can implement to reduce inequalities specific to woman and there are many more to battle this disparity.
The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment (Facts About Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination, n.d.). Although the Equal Pay Act has been established, pay disparity remains a significant problem in the modern day workplace. Women earn less than men even when doing the same job and black males earn less compared to white people; male and female. That fact leaves African-American women at the bottom of the wage gap; similarly, to their number representing top executives positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the weekly median earnings of white men at $971, white women at $795, black men at $710 and black women at $657. We must face the unfortunate reality is that there is a clear wage gap between all groups no matter the position, length of time in the position or educational level achieved by the employees. The fight for equal pay isn’t just a battle for women or African-Americans and helping close the wage gap will benefit everyone, including the U.S. economy. Closing the gender wage gap can mean the difference between living above or below the poverty line, between having access to high-quality child care, schools, higher education, or only being able to afford poorer quality alternatives, no pre-kindergarten, or any post-secondary education (Martinelli, 2015).
Eliminating the pay gap for women and minorities should be a goal for companies around the globe. Enforcing equal pay will boost employee morale and reduce employee turnover resulting in a higher bottom-line, overall benefiting the organization. Leddy (2017) explained there are ways and benefits to closing the pay gap,
It starts with leadership allocating the resources and investments needed to analyze and close identified gender pay gaps. Monitor pay equity continuously and make necessary pay adjustments as gaps are identified or during your regularly scheduled performance review and merit raise processes. Leaders should also talk about why pay equity is the right thing to do, as a matter of compliance and as part of your talent strategy. Pay equity concerns should be integrated into your policies, as well, to emphasis transparency.
To successfully implement this strategy organizations need to invest in systems that can detect the wage disparities before they can begin to close them. Resources have to be allocated to remedy this issue but the return on investment will be significant for the organization.
The disparities highlighted in this paper, illustrates the severity of the unequal workforce we are a part of and proves that we are still separate and unequal. Racial and gender inequality both begin outside the workplace, for that reason the elimination of this issue must start outside it as well. To remedy these issues within the workplace we must admit that it is still the culture of our world today. It starts with people believing that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities. Organizations must realize providing equality for all employees should the corporate standard and enabling inequality is not only morally wrong, but also an unlawful act. When minorities are treated well, they perform well and that benefits the organization; therefore, eliminating disparities should be a corporate goal for everyone.
- African-Americans in the American Workforce. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/reports/american_experiences/african_americans.cfm
- Catalyst. (2018, April 19). Women In The Workforce: United States. Retrieved from https://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-workforce-united-states
- Civil Rights: Law and History. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://civilrights.findlaw.com/civil-rights-overview/civil-rights-law-and-history.html
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- Kilhefner, J. (2016, July 14). Facts About Racial Inequality in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://woman.thenest.com/racial-inequality-workplace-20004.html
- Leddy, C. (2017, April 18). Closing The Gender Pay Gap: A Strategic And Operational Advantage. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adp/2017/04/18/closing-the-gender-pay-gap-a-strategic-and-operational-advantage/#1b1ab66d21a7
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- Mayhew, R. (2016, October 26). Workplace Programs That Reduce Racism and Discrimination. Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/workplace-programs-reduce-racism-discrimination-11533.html
- Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by selected characteristics. (2018, January 19). Retrieved October 4, 2018, from https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat37.htm
- Noman, N. (2016, September 28). Men get boss-level promotions 30% more than women. Retrieved from https://mic.com/articles/155344/biases-and-low-promotion-rates-keep-women-from-becoming-ceos-mc-kinsey-study-finds#.Ti5LEHypr
- Trachsel, H. (2014, October 29). Six ways to fix gender inequality at work. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/10/six-ways-fix-gender-inequality-workplace/
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