On Why Younger Employees Report More Discrimination

November 20, 2019

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“A lot of skin-lightening products in Asia are marketed with language that centers on ‘perfection,’ sending the message that the prospective users, as they are now, are not valued.” —Joanne L. Rondilla, on how the vestiges of colonialism exacerbate racism and colorism in the beauty industry.
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THE STORY

A new poll shows that employees under 35 are more likely to report witnessing or experiencing discrimination than other age groups. For instance, 50% of the younger employees surveyed reported racist workplace incidents, compared to only 33% of employees ages 55+. Similarly, 52% of younger employees and 30% of older employees reported seeing gender discrimination at work.

According to Johnny Taylor, Jr., chief executive of SHRM, the increased reporting results from both “heightened awareness of inappropriate behavior” and a lack of education on what formally qualifies as discrimination. However, Lauren Romansky of Gartner, Inc. “advises companies that it is in their interest to adapt to a more vocal workforce.” While older employees may have “a tolerance for mistakes,” younger employees “expect things to change.”

Our Take

It’s encouraging to hear that younger employees are less willing to let inappropriate or offensive behavior slide. However, note that 75% of workplace harassment complaints still go unreported. And when they are reported, more than half are dismissed due to a lack of supporting evidence.

We wonder whether the issue isn’t so much that employees are unaware of what formally qualifies as discrimination, but that the qualifications are outlined and enforced by those with privilege and power.

How It Affects You

In your organization, consider the social identities of those charged with validating reports of discrimination. Is it possible that certain accepted behaviors may actually marginalize minority-group employees? If you yourself are responsible for enforcing workplace discrimination policies, how can you foster an environment that supports people coming forward?

THE STORY

At South View Middle School, special education students hang out with their general education peers during lunch breaks, extracurriculars, and on the weekends. The students are part of a program called Peer Insights, which trains general education students to work with their special education peers. Peer Insights is part of a wider trend toward integration, and so far, the pilot program looks promising. One Peer Insights student describes their experience: “When I joined it, I felt it was an opportunity to help other kids, but now it doesn’t feel like I’m helping—it just feels like I’m coming to advisory with my friends.

On Why Younger Employees Report More Workplace Discrimination

OUR TAKE

By integrating special education and general education, students learn to debunk myths about people with disabilities at an early age. As one parent writes, “The program teaches them [that his disability] is not something to be afraid of...it’s not weird. Everybody’s got differences.”

How It Affects You

Can you implement an integration program at your school, or in your workplace? A workplace equivalent to Peer Insights could be a peer mentoring program, or an ERG where majority-group and marginalized employees work together to build inclusion in the organization.

On Why Younger Employees Report More Workplace Discrimination

THE STORY

As self-harm becomes more prevalent, experts are learning more about its underpinnings. A meta-analysis of surveys worldwide finds that one in five adolescents, particularly girls, report having harmed themselves “to soothe emotional pain” at least once. Experts used to see self-harm as solely a symptom of severe depression or a result of acute trauma. However, they now say it could be a standalone disorder. Rather than exclusively signaling suicidality, self-harm can also stem from other turbulent emotions, like anger and isolation.

Experts find that the most promising treatment for self-harm is specialized talk therapy, especially when it’s driven by the person in pain. As one former self-harmer puts it, “There is real hope...if you let the person going through this have some control, if you listen to them, if you’re curious about their behavior and not afraid of it.”

OUR TAKE

We’re curious about the gender component of self-harm. Why is it more prevalent among teen girls? One girl describes what it feels like to harm herself: “...It’s the only way you know to deal with intense insecurities, or anger at yourself. Or you’re so numb as a result of depression, you can’t feel anything—and this is one thing you can feel.” How do boys deal with insecurities, anger, and depression?

How It Affects You

Keeping in mind that coping mechanisms may vary by gender, how can you identify and remove barriers to mental health services? How might you reduce stigma attached to accessing those services?

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