An American study has found that employees belonging to minority groups within the workplace are expected to undertake further responsibilities regarding diversity, in comparison to their white, straight colleagues.
Those of minority groups – in this case, this encompasses a wide range of groups including African Americans, Latin Americans, Asians and LGBT+ employees – tend to be asked, in the American work environment, to ensure that inclusivity is commonplace throughout a company’s workforce.
Minority workers are often tasked with peer education with regards to racism, ableism, sexism… Any of the -isms one can think of, which allows equality and encourages diversity. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many employees will still be guilty of being either consciously or unconsciously unfair or disrespectful to some minority groups (specifically racial or sexual minorities). Members of these groups are usually asked to deal with these issues because those from the ‘majority’, or white, heterosexual group, are generally too uncomfortable or unaware of boundaries.
Veronica Caridad Cruz Rabelo, of San Francisco State University, is Assistant Professor of Management. She has stated that those who are ‘visibly queer’ or women (especially) of a minority race are given the additional work of ensuring diversity.
This situation has been dubbed a ‘double shift’ – taking on the extra responsibility of inclusivity work, on top of their own job roles. Colleagues who are white, straight or cisgender (a person who identifies as a gender which corresponds with their biological birth sex) can often be scared to offend others, being worried that they accidentally say the wrong thing or ‘put their foot in it’.
This ‘diversity work’ can be debilitating for workers, who already have their own jobs to do. Not only is it time-consuming, but the emotional implications are also having negative effects on those burdened with these tasks, such as making sure more minority employees are recruited, or making a colleague aware of their racist/sexist slurs.
An associate professor of Wayne State University, Jennifer Gómez, has commented that she says that equality and diversity issues should be taken care of by everyone, including those who find it uncomfortable. Preventing racism and sexism – any form of discriminatory behaviour – is the responsibility of the entire workforce.
Gómez states that this work is neither recorded nor rewarded by employers. The minority groups undergoing this extra work are not acknowledged for their additional input, and it is not seen as an official task. Yet it certainly is not something that should be taken lightly.
Becoming an ally
If your employees are going through similar situations, it is important that they are given the right support and Human Resources deal with any issues appropriately.
The majority group often think they are being diplomatic and respectful by allowing minorities to work on the problem. But in reality, by avoiding the situation altogether, they are not becoming an ally.
The University of Akron’s Rebecca Erickson noted that fully listening to a minority group is the best way to deal with diversity issues, and providing a safe space in which to do this is key. Management needs to work with HR or external firms, so they can learn about inclusivity in the workplace along with their staff.