Social movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have grown in their impact and activity over the past year; and while the work of these and other social movements is nowhere near finished, more people are feeling emboldened and empowered to speak out and against issues like sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Fierce Conversations, a training company which specializes in teaching organizations how to have more effective and productive conversations recently revealed the results of their survey, which assessed the impact of recent and current political and social events on the workplace. More than 1,000 full-time and part-time employees were surveyed and asked how their personal outlooks have shifted over the past year. And 48 percent of survey participants said that they “are more likely to stick up for themselves than they were a year ago” and “another 40 percent are more likely to stand up for a colleague.”
But while the overall findings of the Fierce survey found that political and social events are positive in that individuals appear to be becoming more proactive about social justice; women and millennials are the ones leading the conversations around change, and many of these conversations are missing from the workplace.
For example, 64 percent of survey participants have had a conversation about racial equality, 57 percent have discussed gender equality movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, and 40 percent have engaged in conversations about religious equality. However, most of these conversations are happening between family and friends or amongst colleagues, and very little discussions are being had between employees and management.
In fact, “one in four discussed gender equality with their colleagues, just three percent discussed this topic with company leaders, and just seven percent with their broader team,” according to the survey.
So why is that?
Well, for starters “...the majority of CEOs and company leaders today are older men,’ said Stacey Engle, EVP at Fierce Conversations. And since 2017, many Fortune 500 companies seemed to be losing female CEOs; with women only accounting for about 20 percent of C-suite executive positions, as reported by LeanIn.org.
As a result of mostly older (white) men dominating top organizations, women continue to feel discriminated against, and at higher rates than men. So what can employees and company leaders do to start bringing these conversations to light, in the hopes of creating real social change?
It has to start with actually engaging in the conversations around social issues, according to Fierce Conversations. So often issues of sexism, pay inequality, and race are kept out of the office and boardrooms in order to keep politics separate. But in order for any workplace to feel safe for all employees and progressive, company leaders have to set aside personal discomforts and acknowledge real issues.
This means more than putting together a quick diversity training, or throwing around social justice buzzwords. It may even mean looking outside of an organization to bring in consultants or authorities on what true diversity at work looks like in 2018 and beyond. And acknowledging the privilege that many company leaders have; while creating policies that facilitate healthy dialogue between colleagues. As well as providing resources for employees to bring their concerns to management in ways that will bring about improvement in the workplace.
Tiffany Curtis is a Philly-based freelance writer, podcaster, and sex positivist whose work focuses on empowerment for women of color, race and culture, and sex positivity. She has written for sites like Blavity, Refinery29, and Hello Giggles.