How can we get more people to care about gender/race?

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Ask Watt is a safe space to anonymously ask any question employees might have about work life. Read our answer to the question posed in the title:

I think  many of us are grappling with this question. We ourselves are struggling to get people to commit time to support safe energy spaces, an initiative we see as crucial for building healthy workplaces. So in this answer we are learning together.

From our experience there’s usually 2 groups:

1. The “overwhelmed by society’s issues” -In a world with so many things to care about, all the time,it’s hard to get people focused. We know there are huge overwhelming challenges for humanity like climate change, growth of tech giants  or major political fallout leading to war and mass displacements . These things feel huge and they can cloud out room for other issues. These people are in some ways the easiest and hardest to convince. They already care about social issues so you may not need to convince them of the problem. However they are probably already giving so much of their time, money and attention to social issues it’s hard to justify including one more. We think that the best way to get engagement here would be to formulate concrete action that you want them to take, give them the one useful thing they could do and make it SMART 🙂 specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. They will appreciate removing the extra thought work and being able to do something tangible.

2. The “ post equity/post race” thinkers: Some people just don’t see any issues of gender / race.  Have you heard this one before? “women are already equal..what more do you want”, “ we are post racial..i don’t understand why you keep banging on about it”. Many people do not  understand the race/ gender dynamics that persist. We aren’t saying that no progress has been made..of course we have made huge progress, and we should remember and celebrate what we have accomplished, but the work isn’t over. For example UN women estimates that “Over 2 billion women don’t have the same employment options as men. At the current rate, it will take about a century to close the global pay gap.” and “According to 2016 research from the Pew Research Center, Only 36% of White Americans identified racial discrimination as a major limiting factor in Black lives. Further, many White Americans believe discrimination against Whites is at least as prevalent as discrimination against Blacks.” we’d be curious to see Africa specific data ( we couldn’t find any) but suspect it would be too different. 

With this second  group perhaps the best approach is one of information and education, whilst also being willing to listen to why they think there is no longer a problem and understand where they are coming from to be able to guide them. One thing that can help is to be clear on why race and gender issues (still) matter. That way you are in a position to influence conversation and perhaps change some minds. Here are a few reasons to care about gender and race in the workplace and at the end of the page are some resources we hope can be helpful to help and guide others. Let start with race, not caring about of addressing issues of race and racism at work can 

  • Stifle creativity- diverse teams have been proven to be more creative as they are comfortable to bring more ideas to the table to create a sustainable business.
  • Negatively affect all employee’s morale, mental and physical health leading to absenteeism, high turnover etc. a toxic work culture is bad for everyone, not just those directly affected.
  • Is bad for business- a toxic work culture will get talked about and that can only be bad for the business’s image, customer and stakeholder relationships, attracting employees and future work.

How about gender

  • Once again creativity and productivity can be stifled by lack of gender diversity, which still persists in workspaces
  • Creating a wider talent pool whilst increasing reputation easing recruitment and retention
  • enhancing collaboration- team with women have been shown to be more collaborative
  • Higher profits- According to McKinsey, the most gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.

We also want to recognise the “detractors”. Those who know the need for and benefits of race and gender equity but view this progress as detrimental to their personal ambition achieved through how the world and workplace has advantaged them to date. They do not have the long term view to understand that improving everyone’s condition improves theirs and their organizations. We prefer not to focus on this group, we believe there is  little to be gained here and hope they are a minority. Instead we focus our energy on those who we can help to create the changes they want to and influence those we can to understand better the change needed.

Remember progress on race and gender equity has and will  take time. People need to move away from the two extremes mentioned above,  we can also encourage others and ourselves to start with one small step. For example This article shares some helpful tips on how to start the work of gender equity at home. It’s not easy to get people to care, we hope by starting with demonstrating positive impacts of addressing gender and race you can influence others.



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