6 Statistics to Better Understand the Extent of Discrimination in the Workplace

Claire Schmidt, Founder and CEO of AllVoices

Despite laws against it, discrimination still continues in the workplace, as we've seen in recent lawsuits against major companies for discriminatory practices based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects. Anti-discrimination laws, or even seeing other companies making headlines and losing brand equity, should get companies to put measures in place to prevent these toxic practices. Yet it still continues.

However, employees are not only getting the law involved, but taking to public forums like social media to alert the public to what’s going on behind closed doors. The power is shifting from employer to worker, so the time to end discrimination in the workplace is today.

The first step in ending workplace discrimination is knowing the extent of it. You may think it's not happening in your company, but it is more likely happening than not, according to recent statistics and surveys. In order to truly understand the pervasiveness of discrimination — and the failure to address it — here are some of the insights we found in our recent report on "The State of Workplace Discrimination."

55% have experienced discrimination at their current company.

Discrimination shouldn’t be present in any company, yet over half (55%) of workers say they've experienced discrimination at their current company. 61% have also witnessed discrimination happen to others, whether it be in their current workplace or a past one. We also found that while they're mostly witnessing discrimination happening from managers to employees, they've also seen discrimination happen between coworkers as well.

Other organizations are finding similar numbers. According to a new report by Glassdoor, 61% of U.S. employees have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. The Williams Institute found that 45.5% of LGBT workers have experienced unfair treatment at work. Additionally, Gallup found that 24% of Black employees and 24% of Hispanic employees in the U.S. have experienced discrimination at work over the last year.

80% experienced discrimination while working remotely.

Even though much of the business world moved to remote work in the past year, discrimination didn't end just because people were no longer working in an office. Of those who said they experienced discrimination at their current workplace, 80% experienced discrimination over remote channels like video conferencing, chat apps, or over the phone. This is likely due to a lack of policies around remote work, the willingness to “speak your mind” more in online spaces, and the fact that remote work spaces are often unmonitored.

Only 54% who reported had their matter fully resolved.

Certainly all these issues are being dealt with by these organizations? Not quite. We found that a little over half (54%) of the issues reported were fully resolved. This means the other half of employees who reported their issue but either saw it only partially resolved, or not resolved at all, may still be subjected to discriminatory behavior from either a manager or coworker — which can have its effects. According to Gallup, “those who report discrimination in their workplace are less likely to strongly agree that they have the opportunity to do what they do best, that their opinions count, or that someone at work cares about them as a person.” That lack of resolution has consequences, as 43% say they’ve left a job in the past due to unaddressed discrimination.

32% didn’t report because they weren’t sure it was a big enough deal.

We also found that not every issue is being reported, either. Those who didn't report their experienced discrimination said they didn't because they weren't sure it was a big enough deal to report. This could be because of a workplace culture where employees may believe that certain microaggressions "don't count," when any concern should be reported.

Other reasons for not reporting include fear of retaliation — Harvard Business Review notes that “retaliation is astonishingly common: 68% of sexual harassment allegations and 42% of LGBTQ+ discrimination allegations made to the EEOC also include charges of employer retaliation” — and not believing the report would be addressed (which, if only 54% of issues are being fully resolved, means they have good reason to believe that).

90% are more likely to report through anonymous channels.

What could encourage more reporting, and decrease the fear or hesitancy around it? 90% of our respondents said that they would be more inclined to report issues of discrimination if given a truly anonymous channel through which to do so. This would allow those who don't want to risk retaliation to feel more comfortable sharing their concerns. This number being so high — nearly all of those surveyed — means that there is a very real hesitancy to giving open and honest feedback, if they know that there’s the slightest chance that their feedback could be traced back to them.

85% believe their company has proper measures in place to prevent discrimination.

We found that 85% of workers believe that their workplace does have measures in place to prevent discrimination. However, as we've seen above, discrimination is still happening very frequently in workplaces, and issues aren't being fully resolved as they should be. Organizations may not be soliciting the right feedback from employees, or may be getting feedback but have no way of effectively managing that feedback or resolving it, or may have resources in place but don’t communicate enough to employees where they are and how to use them.

Next Steps

Now that you're aware of the depth of the issue, take action. Start listening to employees to find out their concerns and frustrations around how your organization is handling discrimination. Take inventory of the tools that are working, and put in place new tools that will not only help generate more feedback, but that will help streamline internal processes to ensure issues are being resolved. Revamp your communication as well to make sure your employees know how to report, and what they should be reporting.

Discrimination may be present, but it doesn't have to stay.

About the author:

Claire Schmidt is the founder and CEO of AllVoices, an employee feedback management platform that enables anyone to anonymously report sexual harassment and workplace issues directly to company leadership. Before founding AllVoices, Claire served as Vice President of Technology and Innovation at 20th Century Fox. In 2010 she helped found and lead Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, a nonprofit organization which deploys technology in innovative ways to fight child sex trafficking. During her five years at Thorn, Claire ran all programmatic work, spoke at the White House, the State Department, and Stanford University, and led a task force of more than 30 major technology companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft. Claire graduated from Stanford with a degree in Economics in 2006. She was the curator and vice-curator of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Los Angeles, and in 2015 won a Mic50 award for her work at Thorn.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.