Racism in the workplace remains a fact of life that reduces our country’s productivity and economic growth. According to Statistics Canada, about 36 percent of visible minorities have experienced unfair treatment or discrimination due to their ethnicity, race, language or religion. Of these, 56 percent faced discrimination in the workplace.
Research cited from HRDailyTips shows “team diversity appears to increase conflict in early stages of a team’s formation”, perhaps because “observable characteristics such as national origin, race, and gender alert people to possible differences such as attitudes, values, and opinions”. Initially causing conflict, culturally diverse groups can gradually lead to opportunities to solve problems in unique and creative ways”. So weathering those differences in diversity can actually help a team’s performance in the long run.
Employers can take positive steps in creating a racism-free workplace by:
• Set targets for recruiting and retaining workers from minority groups.
• Consult with minority groups on their experiences and needs.
• Provide opportunities that meet special needs with regard to education and training.
• Understand and fulfill legal requirements.
• Openly listen to complaints and address them with zero tolerance to racism.
A Whistler local that I’ll call Mary suggested this column topic. She openly shared her stories of experiencing discrimination at every stage of her job search. Mary doesn’t get interviews when potential employers see Mount Currie on her resume, correctly assuming that she is First Nations. Recommendations resulting from her proven work ethic have sometimes led to a face-to-face interview that turns sour when she shows up only to be advised that the job has been filled. When she has been hired, treatment from employer and fellow employees alike, have made the situation unbearable.
I asked Mary how she coped with this, to which she replied that she gently reminds people we are all human and deserving of respect. Even so, she says that “Sometimes I go home and I hurt. I hope for a future where my child will not have to go through the same things because I love her so much.”
Mary, thanks for having the courage to share your story. When I hung up the phone after our conversation, I hurt too!