What did the US presidential election do for the cause of diversity in the workplace?
I don’t think anyone would deny that some pretty intemperate language was used throughout the campaign … to put it mildly. When Hillary Clinton said that “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables”, she was hardly being inclusive. Mind you, without wanting to take sides here, any questionable comment she made was seriously overshadowed by some of Donald Trump’s observations about women, Mexicans and Muslims. Not to mention his mockery of a reporter with a disability.
On the face of it, it doesn’t look good. As Oliver Staley pointed out in a recent article, Barack Obama was a consistent champion of equality and diversity in the workplace. Given Trump’s railing against political correctness, it seems unlikely that he will be pursuing Obama’s agenda on the issue.
And the reaction was swift. In an article for Bloomberg, Rick Clough, Jeff Green and Laura Colby reported that within minutes of the outcome of the presidential election becoming inevitable, Karyn Twaronite, Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer at EY, started receiving emails in their hundreds from employees concerned about their future position.
Let’s not forget that the President of the USA can appoint his own Attorney General and make senior appointments to the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Obama used that power to promote diversity. I leave it to you to provide the corollary.
Does that mean that women, members of ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and the LBGT community should be worried about their ongoing employment rights, their status in the workplace?
Well, the dynamic is an interesting one. Of course, we can understand where the concerns are coming from. But as Twaronite commented: “I’m actually hopeful, because there’s so much dialog. We’ve been able to have conversations about subjects people never talked about before, like racism and sexism.”
She’s not alone. The Bloomberg article also states that “chief executive officers at some of the largest U.S. companies, from General Electric Co. to Apple Inc., are reassuring employees they support workplace diversity as a salve to anxieties caused by the bruising presidential election.”
There really is good reason to be optimistic. But – and it’s a very big ‘but’ – business leaders everywhere have a profoundly important responsibility to ensure that optimism is translated into reality.