"You’ve come a long way baby”
Although this line is from what now can be considered a very sexist and completely un-PC cigarette ad from the 1960s, the same applies to workplaces today with respect to diversity. Since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights in 1964, our society has made tremendous strides and many workplaces have become much more diverse than they were back in the “Mad Men Era”.
Many professions have substantially increased the number of women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. There is also a greater willingness to hire individuals with caregiving responsibilities and offer employment to veterans reentering the workforce.
But as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this month, we must take note that too much discrimination and intolerance still pervades the workplace today. In fact, a recent news story reveals claims that a black supervisor at a GM plant in Ohio was subject to racist comments, slights and threats, as white workers::
• Declared bathrooms for “whites only”;
• Wore Nazi symbols underneath their uniforms; and
• Hung nooses threatening violence and intimidation.
He further claimed that he was denounced as “boy” and ignored by subordinates. The black supervisor alleges that he was treated differently from the start and that when he complained to upper management, he was told to deal with it himself and be happy he was employed. Although GM vehemently denied the discrimination and harassment allegations, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission found that GM allowed a racially hostile environment to exist following a nine-month investigation.
This situation illustrates that much more can be done to address underlying tensions and deep-rooted prejudices. Here are some examples of mistakes an employer can make when it comes to achieving a more diverse and inclusive workplace.