Black Lives Matter: Have our workplaces really changed?

HRD investigates how diversity and inclusion has evolved in the past year

Black Lives Matter: Have our workplaces really changed?

Since the tragic death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired many organisations to act.

Earlier this year, Netflix announced a new “Black Lives Matter” collection for US subscribers, featuring over 45 titles about racial injustice and the experience of Black Americans.

Spotify supported the cause by creating several playlists in solidarity with the movement, while Ben and Jerry’s called for the dismantling of white supremacy, which they said is a central driver behind the disproportional killing of Black people by police.

In fact, research earlier this year found that employees have been watching how their organisation responds to the movement very closely.

An Instagram poll conducted by networking group Black & HR found 77% of respondents said their workplace had not addressed what had been happening in the Black community.

Now, new research has found that 14% of both employers and employees say the importance of equality, diversity & inclusion (ED&I) has increased in their workplace because of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The survey by HAYS found the majority said there had been no change in focus in their workplace as a result of this or other similar movements.

However, when they next look for a new job, 54% of professionals say an organisation’s ED&I policies will be either vital or important considerations when deciding who to work for.

The survey found over half (58%) of employers recognise that their organisation’s ED&I policies are vital or important in attracting new talent, while 30% said ED&I will become more of a priority for them in the next three to six months.

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Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand, said that despite COVID-19 headwinds, the Black Lives Matter movement and resulting demonstrations around the world brought the issue of equality, diversity & inclusion firmly to the fore.

“However, it seems that only a small number (14%) of employers view ED&I as more important in their workplace as a result of the movement,” he said.

“Yet failing to commit to real and lasting ED&I action can weaken an organisation’s employment brand and damage their ability to attract new staff.

“While it’s reassuring that 30 per cent of employers will make ED&I more of a priority in the months ahead, it’s also important to move beyond talk and make real progress.”

To properly address diversity and inclusion in the workplace in 2020, it’s also important to consider how the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect.

For example, consider culturally diverse LGBTQI+ talent. Based on the findings of a survey of almost 200 culturally diverse LGBTQ workers, a Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) report found that the combination of cultural background and LGBTQ status or identity had an impact on over three quarters of respondents, with 55% reporting a negative impact.

The research also identified six common themes in how the experience of respondents played out.

Read more: 10 companies tackling diversity and inclusion

This included racism and/or homophobia; not being understood at work by people from the Anglo/white majority; the complexity of multiple and intersecting identities; working in regional or rural areas; working internationally in countries where homosexuality is criminalised; and feeling accepted at work but not at home.

Lisa Annese, CEO of DCA, said that it’s crucial for organisations to understand the experiences of culturally diverse employees.

“Our work with people who are culturally diverse, and LGBTQ found that for some people, current workplace D&I initiatives aren’t addressing the nuances of their intersectional identities,” said Annese.

“We wanted to start addressing this gap by sharing the insights of culturally diverse LGBTQ workers about the actions Australian organisations can take to create more inclusive workplaces.”

Another challenge is moving from conversation to action, to embed ED&I in the culture of an organisation. The research by Hays has found that 38% of employers say ED&I is not embedded in their culture, either because it is not a priority, or it is viewed as a ‘nice to have’ only when time and budgets allow.

“Rather than shifting mindsets around ED&I and embracing and celebrating underrepresented demographic groups and diversity of thought, the best that can be hoped for is a level of tolerance towards difference,” said Deligiannis.

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