Diversity Insight

#MeToo, #TimesUp, and #BlackLivesMatter Not Being Discussed at Work

A recent survey from Fierce Conversations, a training company that teaches organizations how to have effective conversations, revealed key insight into the potential impact recent political and social events have had on the workplace—from who is being invited to the conversation to increased feelings of self-empowerment. Over 1,000 full- and part-time employees in the United States were asked questions about current social movements, along with areas of discrimination they have witnessed and experienced and how their personal outlook has shifted over the past year.

Source: Kameleon007 / iStock/ Getty

The Fierce survey revealed that people are talking about national social movements:

  • Over two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed have had a conversation about racial equality (including the #BlackLivesMatter movement).
  • Fifty-seven percent have discussed gender equality (including the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements).
  • Forty percent have discussed religious equality.

Most of these conversations, however, are taking place among friends and family and not at work. While the survey found that colleagues are talking about these issues to some degree, there are very few conversations happening between management and their employees. For example, while one in four discussed gender inequality with his or her colleagues, just 3% discussed this topic with company leaders and just 7% with their broader team.

“We were somewhat surprised to see the lack of attention these issues have received among colleagues, especially compared to the degree to which these conversations happen among friends and family,” said Stacey Engle, EVP at Fierce Conversations. “These are clearly important topics, however, there appears to be a barrier in place when it comes to discussing these issues within the workplace, despite the fact that these are real issues that every organization should address.”

Women and Millennials Lead the Conversation Around Issues of Inequality

Based on the data collected, women more than men, and Millennials more than Baby Boomers, are discussing issues of inequality.

Over 60% of women discussed gender issues; just 53% of men say the same. The same trend appears for racial inequality (68% vs. 60%) and religious inequality (43% vs. 37%). In addition, women are less likely to believe the employees in their organization are diverse. Survey results found that nearly 70% of men state their workplaces are diverse, while just 60% of women feel the same.

The other noteworthy gap this survey found was between generations.

  • Seventy-nine percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have had a conversation around the #BlackLivesMatter movement vs. 64% of those over 60.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of those aged 18–29 have had a conversation about gender inequality, while just over 50% of those over 60 say the same.
  • Forty-seven percent of those aged 18–29 have had a conversation around religious inequality vs. 38% of those over 60.

“The fact that older generations, and men, talk about these issues less often than their counterparts is concerning given the majority of CEOs and company leaders today are older men,” Engle continued. “These social issues may not be top of mind for them, but it’s imperative that they recognize their employees are discussing these matters outside of work, and address them within their organizations.”

Women Continue to be Judged Based on Gender; Age a Top Cause of Discrimination  

When asked what people have felt personally discriminated for, age (26%) and gender (25%) top the list, followed by political beliefs and values (16% each). Nearly one-third of women surveyed (32%) have felt discriminated against for their gender; just 15% of men say the same.

People Feel More Empowered Than They Did a Year Ago

While individuals still experience and witness discrimination, the past year has made an impact in terms of how empowered individuals feel to change that. Almost half (48%) of those surveyed said they are more likely to stick up for themselves than they were a year ago, and another 40% are more likely to stand up for a colleague. Thirty percent are more likely to address a colleague directly for inappropriate behavior, such as a racist joke or unwelcome flirting, than they were a year ago.

These data vary by gender; 55% of women are more likely to stick up for themselves than they were a year ago; just 36% of men say the same. Forty-two percent of women are more likely to stand up for a colleague; just 34% of men say the same.

“While we have seen a slight increase in empowerment among men, there is a more significant shift here in how women are feeling when it comes to speaking up,” said Engle. “Ensuring women, along with every employee, are given the tools to have effective conversations in this current environment can potentially have a significant impact on the workplace. Conversations around equality are necessary, and every employee should feel comfortable discussing these issues, especially if they have experienced any type of discrimination. Not feeling free to speak up is the reason we have seen systemic issues at many organizations over the past year.”

Fierce recommends that leaders across organizations start by engaging in the conversation as a first step. Many struggle with how to come up with an organizational perspective on these issues without truly understanding the specific issues their company is facing.

“We urge leaders to not create a strategy in a silo. Talk with your employees, engage with them in a real way on these issues to get an understanding of how they feel and what they would like to see addressed, if anything,” said Engle. “Your employees are having these conversations; it’s time to bring them into the workplace.”

For more information, including tips on how to get started, visit www.fierceinc.com.

Tomorrow we will share a brief question and answer that the HR Daily Advisor had with Stacey Engle, EVP at Fierce Conversations.