If it seems as though there have been more problems related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace in recent years, you may be feeling a growing awareness of the dangers of social injustices. Whether you call them social injustices or the blatant lack of DEI, these issues have been around since the beginning of time but only recently has the nation stood up and taken notice. It’s a time of awareness brought about by events making the news on all levels from local to global proportions. Perhaps it’s time to look at the social injustices permeating corporate America and what some companies are doing to right a wrong.
The Birth of an Awareness
You may be wondering why these issues are only coming to light now, at this stage of the game in 2022. After all, the issues with DEI are what led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At that time, one man had the courage to stand up in the face of widespread discrimination and as he gained public interest, people of all colors, creeds and races joined him in very public, nonviolent protests.
Dr. Martin Luther King began as one lone man working to enlighten the masses on the injustices still being perpetrated against minorities. You may remember learning about the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963 or the Montgomery Bus Boycott that quickly made the news here at home and elsewhere around the world. Perhaps best known for his I Have a Dream speech, Dr. King set the stage for years of efforts on behalf of civil rights.
Slowly, those efforts took a back seat to other world events and over time, little was done to further the cause. With this being the case, why now? Why DEI matters now at this point in time when for so many years the social injustice of exclusion was still prevalent within many layers of society is a question you may be asking.
Events That Reawakened Public Outcry
Perhaps the one, single most important event that precipitated a growing awareness of the many social injustices still permeating our society was the global Covid-19 pandemic. A large part of why DEI matters now is the fact that a huge portion of the population finally had nothing but time on their hands. With global travel restrictions, mandates to shut down everything except necessary services, and people isolated from the world except for news events, they had nothing but time.
While the nation sat glued to the internet, television, and radio to track the movement of the pandemic, events in the news began shedding light on social injustices on all levels of our society. One of the most widely reported events was the George Floyd murder by police in May of 2020. This was at the height of shutdowns, so a huge number of people had time to follow the news and all the protests and riots that followed. Popular opinion found that the shooting was the result of racial profiling which led to people coming forward to talk about this very same issue as it affected them every day of the week in every area of life. Of great importance was how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion were being ignored at their places of employment.
People of color began talking about how they had been passed over for a promotion that should have been rightfully theirs. Women spoke of the same issues but based on gender rather than color. Members of the LGBTQ community also had much to say. It gave cause to wonder if anything other than lip service resulted from that world-famous Civil Rights Act of 1964. Actually, there were those working largely behind the scenes to continue working against the dangers of social injustices both in the workplace and within society in general.
One Organization Working Against the Tides
This would be a good time to talk about one organization that stands out as a leader in advocacy against human rights violations with a strong emphasis on social injustices in the workplace. The Center for Constitutional Rights is an organization led by lifelong activists and lawyers, along with some of the nation’s most prominent progressives and an assortment of academics and pioneers in the human rights arena.
This is just one organization that was founded in 1966, just a couple of years after the legislation of the Civil Rights Act, and they continue to offer strong advocacy today, more than five decades later. They are committed to fighting against the evils of exclusionism and work through litigation, advocacy, and yes, communications with the sole purpose of enlightenment.
These highly committed professionals and volunteers alike work to right the social injustices within “oppressive systems of power,” in their words, that lead to racial and gender oppression and economic inequity. The CCR also works to mitigate and prevent governmental overreach. They also have a strong focus on the injustices of inequality and discrimination within corporate America. Even so, no matter how vocal, this is just one organization fighting against the crimes being perpetrated against humanity in our very midst.
A New Player Makes a Widely Unpopular Move
You might think that things will finally calm down and just maybe we can get back to what is being referenced as a ‘new normal’ as the pandemic seems to be slowly receding. Unfortunately, that is just not going to be the case. Now there is a new player has entered the scene with crimes against humanity, and that is Vladimir Putin with his invasion of Ukraine.
Putin has his military bombing everything from nuclear power plants to local, community schools and the world is outraged. Private citizens are dying, and others are attempting to flee a land where their ancestors have lived for millennia. They are leaving the only place they have ever known and seeking refuge away from the advancing Russian troops.
Yet, even so, will this do anything other than prompt sympathy for a people we are unlikely to help? There is no way to send military support to the area without provoking WWIII and all the implications of nuclear destruction. It’s yet another example of human rights violations prevalent in society today. But what does all this have to do with the dangers of social injustices in the workplace? Let’s move on to that right now.
Common Violations Against Civil Rights in the Workplace
Here is where the real problems exist. Many civil and criminal charges are leveled against corporations still to this day. Plaintiffs seek to show how their rights were violated, rights they were granted and reaffirmed in that Civil Rights Act mentioned above.
The most common violations being reported in corporate America include anything pertaining to racial profiling and/or discrimination. The George Floyd murder culminating in the subsequent arrest and incarceration of 44-year-old Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020, led to an awareness that many employers are hiring, and firing, based on racial discrimination. With that said, racial discrimination really is the leading complaint in the workplace today. Second only to racial discrimination in the workplace are gender inequalities and discrimination. These are the two most common violations being reported today but there also exists discriminatory practices against immigrants and peoples with disabilities.
Righting a Wrong Through Education
DEI is a huge focus within a Master of Arts in Leadership program at public and also private universities like Saint Bonaventure. Although this subject is broached in philosophy and theology classes, it has huge implications in business administration and leadership programs as well.
Social injustices within the workplace create a toxic never-ending cycle of being kept on the fringes of society. This not only affects the workers who are being held back from promotions, but it also affects the public all the way up to a national level.
The reason why exclusionism and human rights abuses have a strong impact on society at large is because being left in poverty as the result of discrimination leads to the need for government financial aid. Those very same social injustices in the workplace that many are willing to overlook are the very issues they should be looking to correct. Advances in education are providing solutions to a problem that has often been cast aside because there seemed to be no solutions.
A View from a Different Perspective
Anyone who believes that social injustices don’t affect them perhaps don’t understand the implications brought forward into every area of life from financial to legal concerns. As hinted on above, human rights violations and social injustices are like waves in a puddle. One step creates an outward movement and just as when causing a puddle to ripple out to dry land surrounding it, so to do these human rights abuses and violations also ripple outward to affect literally everyone in that community, county, state or nation.
It often seems like those who are the most vocal when rejecting claims of human rights violations are often the very people who complain because the economy is faltering. It is possible that they don’t see that discrimination leads to a series of events resulting in government subsidies. In other words, those who criticize complaints alleging social injustices in the workplace are a part of the problem rather than being instrumental in framing solutions.
The Corporate Consequences of Social Injustice
Let’s turn back for just a moment for another look at the civil rights violations and social injustices exclusionism often result in. For example, someone of color or a legal immigrant may have more experience and knowledge than a middle-aged white man given the promotion based on racial profiling. A woman may be passed over in favor of a male with less experience and knowledge. The financial ramifications for that company can be huge.
Those who uphold the theory that minorities are less experienced and/or capable of doing advance level tasks are the very same individuals who complain when company bonuses are cut because of loss of revenue. This type of personality isn’t able to see the big picture. In their effort to assert superiority, they have become the real underlying cause of a company’s failure to grow. The consequences of social injustices within a corporate environment can the underlying cause of plateauing in efforts to grow.
Working Toward a New Reality
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) can form the foundation of a new reality in corporate America as well as in the mindset of individuals poised to enter positions of leadership in public policy. With so many people seeking a new post-pandemic normal, perhaps now is the time to address this age-old problem relating to discrimination and exclusion.
Sadly, and as mentioned above, the real problem interfering with growth lies at the feet of those who would trample on social justice. In order to move forward to a brighter future, it will take rethinking those ‘realities’ we created based on our own prejudices.
It may be difficult to let go of those prejudices but until we recognize the need for change, the problems will continue. Leadership needs to take the bull by the horns if any real change is to occur. Until the benefits of DEI begin to materialize, there will be those who hold on to the prejudices they were raised with. Sadly, the cycle is hard to step off, but it can happen.
Consider this another exercise in the ripple effect. Beginning with leaders on every level within a company, it is possible to mold a company culture over time. No, it will not happen overnight and maybe even a change in leadership will be required, but once DEI becomes part of company policy, no real change can be affected.
The long and short of it is that if you want a new reality rooted in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion it is incumbent upon leadership to set the stage. All eyes are looking upward, so give them something to see.