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New Study: 3 in 5 U.S. Employees Have Witnessed or Experienced Discrimination

By Glassdoor - Nov 3, 2019 at 10:00AM

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Yet more employers are trying to foster diversity in the workplace.

By Amy Elisa Jackson

In spite of employers increasing investment in diversity and inclusion, a new Glassdoor survey reveals that 61 %, or about three in five U.S. employees have witnessed or experienced discrimination based on age, race, gender or LGBTQ identity in the workplace. The 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Study was conducted online by The Harris Poll among over 1,100 U.S. employees and revealed the prevalence of discrimination at work. Furthermore, in surveying employees across the U.S., U.K., France and Germany, issues of belonging are common.

A group of young adults sit around a table and talk.

Image source: Getty Images.

Among the key findings of the survey, employees revealed:

  • Employed adults in the U.S. have experienced or witnessed discrimination (61%) more than those in the U.K. (55%), France (43%), and Germany (37%), respectively
  • Forty-two percent of employed adults in the U.S. have experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace; the highest percentage of the four countries surveyed
  • Ageism is the most experienced or witnessed form of discrimination in both the U.S. (45%) and U.K. (39%)
  • Gender discrimination is the most experienced or witnessed form of discrimination in both France (30%) and Germany (24%)
  • Half (50%) of employed adults across the four countries believe their employer should do more to increase diversity and inclusion

"Creating a company culture that celebrates and respects people for their diverse backgrounds and experiences should be a top priority for all employers," said Carina Cortez, Glassdoor's chief people officer. "Employees must feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work, without the fear of prejudice or ridicule, whether intentional or not. It's critical for employers to actively listen to how their employees feel about what it's like to work at their company. More importantly, employers must be willing and ready to take action to foster a workplace environment in which all people feel they belong."

During a time of record low unemployment, the U.S. is experiencing one of the best times in history to find a job. This also means that companies are being evaluated even more closely by career-minded job seekers for signs of mission-aligned values, a thriving company culture, and a people-first approach. Our survey shows that workplace discrimination, whether based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, or identity, to name a few, persists.

"While it's troubling to see that a majority of people have experienced or witnessed discrimination at work, with more awareness comes more action to ensure greater inclusivity in the workplace," adds Cortez. "The results of this survey should be a wake-up call for workers and employers to foster a more inclusive culture to end any form of discrimination at work."

Inside the data

As we dug into the data further, the survey revealed that men in the U.S. are more likely to witness or experience discrimination than women at work. In fact, 50% of men witnessed or experienced ageism as opposed to 38% of women respondents. Furthermore, 38% of men witnessed or experience LGBTQ discrimination compared to 28% of women.

Another key finding of the survey revealed that younger employed adults have more experiences of discrimination at work. Over half (52%) of employed U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 34 report gender discrimination at work, falling to less than three in 10 (29%) of employed adults aged 55+.

How companies are tackling diversity and inclusion

A bright spot in the conversation around diversity and inclusion is the heightened level of investment employers are making both within their companies and on Glassdoor. Glassdoor's economic research team found that over the past year, hiring for roles dedicated to fostering more diverse and inclusive workplaces has increased 30%.

Three-quarters (77%) of U.S. employees say their company employs a diverse workforce; though over half (55%) believe their company should do more to improve D&I. Over six in 10 (64%) U.S. employees say their company is investing more in D&I now than it has in years past

Within their ranks, both large and small companies are investing in online courses, trainings, open dialogues, employee resource groups, and companywide diversity education. Employers inducing 3M, Babbel, Eli Lilly, Visa, Airbnb, DocuSign, and more are developing innovative strategies to promote diverse hiring practices as well as retention tools. It's no surprise that these companies and others are investing in inclusivity not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because the candidates of tomorrow truly care. More than six in 10 (62%) U.S. employees between the ages of 18 and 34 -- which includes millennials and gen Z — believe their company should do more to increase diversity and inclusion.

"At Glassdoor, we encourage our employees to bring their authentic selves to work," says Cortez. "We empower our workers through employee resource groups, companywide diversity-driven speaker series, and monthly programming that not only educates, but also celebrates, diverse communities and employees."

The 2019 Diversity and Inclusion study reveals that while progress is being made, there is much more work to do to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Identifying the problems and recognizing companies striving for equality give hope that we will begin to see more diverse and welcoming workforces in the future.

This article originally appeared on

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