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Stone speaks: Appreciating difference

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In the second of a new series for HRZone, Glenda Stone CEO of Aurora, the international organisation working for the economic advancement of women looks at how to identify and eradicate discrimination in the workplace and benefit from diversity.


A fair and inclusive work environment is critical to business success. Diversity and inclusion are business imperatives that require awareness and appreciation of difference, and a focus on harnessing employee talent and potential. Diversity is not an ‘initiative’ but a way of thinking and a means of doing business. Diversity and inclusion contribute to a company’s brand and reputation.

The inclusion of diverse talent accelerates productivity, increases marketing opportunities, provides innovation and creativity, enhances recruitment and retention, increases shareholder value, deepens customer loyalty, and significantly develops employee commitment and morale.

A helpful website is www.wherewomenwanttowork.com, which is a free online service for women to research and compare organisations and comment on companies that have the best diversity programmes and initiatives. It shows what organisations are doing to deal with discrimination and allows employees to see where their company ranks among the rest.

Many companies have implemented diversity policies, processes and programmes that aim to eliminate obvious acts of discrimination and intolerance. However, if micro-inequities still exist in diverse work cultures, exclusions will be evident and a truly inclusive workplace will not result.

Definition of micro-inequities
Micro-inequities are small messages that subtly discriminate against people and reinforce negative corporate cultures. The term ‘micro-inequities’ refers to those everyday acts of exclusion, devaluation and discouragement that create barriers to employees’ contributions.

Individually, micro-inequities can appear trivial and insignificant, but viewed systemically and holistically, they can cause unfavourable working conditions that erode staff morale, dislodge employee’s careers and decrease company performance. An isolated inequitable behaviour may not have a large effect but repeated occurrences may have a detrimental impact.

Devaluing potential often leads to damaged self-esteem, reduced productivity, absenteeism, low morale, withdrawal, turnover and possible litigation. There is a clear and compelling case for eradicating micro-inequities.

Identifying micro-inequities
Subtle discrimination is less obvious than sexual harassment that results from intent. Micro-inequities mostly occur as a result of unspoken assumptions carried by individuals. It is difficult to identify micro-inequities because:

  • they are quite varied and wide-ranging

  • their existence is not necessarily predictable

  • they are often irrational and non-intentional

  • they often seem petty and trivial

The recipient often does not know how to deal with micro-inequities without seeming pedantic. Micro-inequities have a significant negative impact on productivity.

Eradicating micro-inequities
Micro-inequities Awareness Training is vital for educating employees about identifying, addressing and eradicating subtle discrimination. Subtle discrimination exists in the professional workplace so training is the first step to overcoming obstacles, challenging mindsets, and to successfully initiating appropriate behaviour at all levels of the company. A ‘small deep wins’ approach is necessary to erode barriers caused by micro-inequities, while not triggering employees backlash or resistance.

This type of approach results in immediate impact and can be put into action relatively quickly.

Creating workshops for addressing the impact of micro-inequities on individual employees, on team performance, and on organisational culture is also another option.

Workshops help identify and address micro-inequities in the workplace and also provide a range of strategies for improving behaviours. Prevention methods can also be taught and role-played.

For a company to succeed and grow, a collectively conducive behaviour must develop. It is the employers job to make sure that every employee can work in an environment where they feel included, valued, and encouraged. When you have a fair and inclusive work environment, productivity, creativity, and market opportunity are guaranteed results.

Other articles in this series


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Annie Hayes

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