Being both visible and overlooked
In Canada, people of colour regularly face systemic racism and barriers in the workplace and in other parts of their lives. Many different cultural groups around the world are impacted by a colonial history. The continued impact of that history is evidenced by the differences in how people are treated simply based on their race and ethnicity.
The racism and barriers impact people of colour’s comfort, safety, mental and emotional wellbeing, and their likelihood of being hired or promoted. By extension, we see a severe lack of people of colour on corporate boards and in senior management positions. Such conditions also affect their earnings. In fact, studies have shown that there is not only a gender pay gap, but also a racial one.
For every dollar earned by a white/non-racialized man...
The following statistics come from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ 2019 report: Canada’s Colour Coded Income Inequality.
The discrimination is often subtle, but exists in many workplaces and has a deep impact on individuals of colour. Catalyst published a report in 2019 on Emotional Tax. Defined as “the combination of feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity, and the associated effects of health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work.” When surveyed, most people of colour expressed feeling on guard against potential bias in the workplace and between 50-69% indicated that bias created a strong incentive to quit, and between 22-42% also reported trouble sleeping. The vast majority had personal stories about being excluded in the workplace.
Attempts to overcome bias has caused many people of colour to try to downplay certain aspects of their identities or to feel extra pressure in performing well. People of colour regularly report efforts to fit in by choosing to wear hairstyles and clothing similar to those of their white peers instead of their natural hair or ethnic clothing. Despite these efforts, people of colour experience a glass ceiling in the workplace and women of colour experience a double glass ceiling… or are included as part of a tokenistic approach to diversity.
To create a workplace that is inclusive to people of colour, employers can address bias in their own HR processes, workplace practices, and build awareness within their teams about how to be better allies.