One of the hardest things about working in the business of ending discrimination is that it is often invisible. We see it all the time – big businesses with flash websites to provide physical evidence, working hard to make their otherwise invisible or intangible services visible. If only we spent this sort of time and these budgets making discrimination visible…
Where is it if we can’t see it?
Discrimination is not just a one off hiring decision. It permeates all workplaces to varying extents depending on how it is managed and mitigated. Perhaps the way you look meant that you either got the job you wanted, or didn’t… without much of an explanation. It might have been a snide remark on your appearance or an item of clothing. It could even be as simple as whether or not you were considered for a promotion or training opportunity, rather than a colleague of a different race or gender. What if your culture or exposure to media at an early age means you ruled out certain careers all together?
In this article we’ll run through some of the less visible forms of discrimination in the labour market that affect both employees and employers and how to spot them.
Spotting Unseen Discrimination
Subtle or casual forms of discrimination can be equally as harmful as the obvious kinds we see in the media. It can be as simple as a subtle look or snide comment, or even more sinister forms of systemic discrimination that means because of your race, gender, ethnicity or age you are less likely that another team member to receive a promotion or training.
Invisible Discrimination In Recruitment
Finding a job is always a tense time for everyone involved – from the pressure of ensuring you perform at your best despite the nerves you might feel – to the pressure on the people interviewing you, who need to ensure they find the perfect candidate for the job. If you are concerned that you may have been discriminated against in a job application process it is important to gather all the facts. Good (potential) employers will be able to give feedback and valid reasons on why your application was unsuccessful.
Tokenism – You’ve Got The Job – But Why?
Many businesses have shunned the traditional recruitment ‘funnel’ in favour of more diverse practices. Some, however, despite their best efforts have simply managed to put lipstick on the gorilla. ‘Tokenism’ occurs when people from ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, women and members of other minority groups are hired simply to fill a quota.
It is worth being aware of this during the hiring process as an applicant. If you get a job to fill part of a quota, rather than because of genuine skill and the workplace valuing diversity, it is likely to become very clear in the subsequent working practices. Employers also need to be aware of this and should always ensure they are hiring candidates for the right reasons. Remember recruitment is just the beginning. This article on Thrive Global sheds more light on the topic.
Societal & Industry Discrimination
This is a biggie and will affect nearly all of us. Have you ever considered how your background, origin, race and gender affected ‘what you wanted to be when you grew up?’ Founder of beauty company June & Co. Mia Torres explains it well by describing how - as a person of colour and the daughter of immigrants - she assumed she had two career path options; to be a figure skater (like Michelle Kwan) or a television broadcaster (like Connie Chung).
By Mia’s consumption of mainstream media and exposure to the beauty industry she had concluded that this would be an industry she would never be able to work in. In 2020 she highlights how the game is changing and how the beauty industry is one where (despite senior management remaining similar) the representation of minorities is slowly changing.
This is possibly one of the most damaging types of discrimination out there. Not only is it invisible but it doesn’t apply to any minority group alone. Retaliation discrimination occurs after a team member has complained of unfair practices, favouritism or harassment in the workplace.
After reporting an incident, retaliation discrimination can lead to employees subsequently being exposed to further injustices and in the worst case can lead to the person losing their job. This is why we believe it is important to start with communication and breaking down these traditional barriers to open up the conversation, without repercussion.
This article by Sapphire Law explains the implications of this as well as the other top types of discrimination in the U.S. today.
Age Discrimination – Less Visible Than Wrinkles
Tech, beauty and fitness (to name a few) are amongst some of the industries that openly practice age discrimination without even knowing they are doing so. From it being inherently set out in the ‘fresh and innovative’ brand identity of a budding tech firm, to more systemic issues where firms find it completely acceptable to terminate the employment of older (often more experienced) worker in favour of younger workers with new ideas.
There is also a arguably darker ‘financial’ side to age discrimination that sees companies subtly replace older workers with younger workers – not because of their fresh ideas and impressive credentials – but because younger workers are often cheaper and cost less in terms of health insurance. Sad but true.
There is also a tricky line to walk in discriminating against older employees for their traditional ideas and lack of inclusive thinking. As an employer is it just to terminate the long-standing employment of an employee who doesn’t believe in inclusivity – or is it your job to educate them? There is a interesting one to ponder with your team…
These can come in many forms and can include issues such as Post Traumatic Dress Disorder (PTSD) through to more acute medical issues like Type 1 Diabetes. In most cases of conditions like this employers need to make appropriate adjustments, within their capabilities to help mitigate any issues that could arise, enabling people to continue with their work.
As an employee, it is your responsibility to notify your employer or potential employer to enable them to make the necessary allowances. As an employer it is your responsibility to gain the appropriate knowledge of the disability and take actionable steps to help provide a reasonable adjustment. This article by Capital Law offers some interesting insight into the topic.
The Effects Of Invisible Discrimination On Employees
The effects of discrimination go far beyond missing out on a job, training or promotion. It can permeate every aspect of a person’s life and seriously impact their mental wellbeing. Beyond Blue covers some interesting information on the invisible discrimination that often affects aboriginal communities in Australia. They outline how in some people this has lead to anxiety, depression and even attempted suicide. This is serious stuff.
The Effects Of Invisible Discrimination On Workplaces
All varieties of workplace discrimination damage not only the individual but the organisation as a whole. It may be invisible at the time but word of invisible discrimination can spread and will inevitably rise to the service.
Maltreatment of employees due to their personal characteristics is bad for company morale and also tarnishes an employer’s reputation in the industry. What was once invisible suddenly becomes a rather large blot on the company’s brand. Time to dig below the service?
How equall Can Help
At equall we understand first hand how invisible discrimination can affect employees and equally how inclusivity can be handled well. We want to help demystify invisible discrimination and break down traditional barriers in communication to bring these issues to the surface.
Talk to one of the team today.
We believe in equality. As a fundamental human right, embracing equality is simply the right thing to do.