How Do the World’s Most Ethical Companies Prevent Discrimination?

How Do the World’s Most Ethical Companies Prevent Discrimination?

To use ethics to prevent discrimination, incorporate it company-wide, embrace employee differences and hold your company accountable.

$118 million.

That's what Google agreed to pay to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit in spring 2022. The suit claims that female employees were paid less than males with the same job titles and includes over 15,000 women.

Unfortunately, workplace discrimination isn't uncommon.

In the US, 61 per cent of employees have been either the victim of, or witness to, discrimination on the job.

That means six out of every 10 people have been turned down for a job or promotion, had their work day disturbed, and/or felt unsafe in a professional setting.

Luckily, you can use ethics to prevent discrimination in your organization. If you strive to run an ethical company and care about your employees, use these tips from the World's Most Ethical Companies when making your diversity and inclusion plan.

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1. Address Problems Common to Your Industry

While almost all forms of discrimination can occur in every industry, some are more prominent in certain types of workplaces. For example, ageism is unfortunately common in the tech industry, and Black and Hispanic people are underrepresented in STEM jobs.

To combat discrimination in your organization, take note of your industry's weak areas and work extra hard on them. Try to understand why these historic biases exist and how you, as an employer, can keep them out of your hiring practices and workplace culture.

Auto parts manufacturer Aptiv is one company that does this well. Recognizing that it's often harder for women to land jobs and promotions in the engineering and technology industries, they focus their diversity efforts on gender equality.

Some of the ways they achieve this include:

  • Networking with female engineering students
  • Providing scholarships to female students "at engineering-focused universities"
  • Offering equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender identity
  • Holding "Women in Tech" events to help their female employees progress their careers

While it's important to identify your industry and organization's weak areas for inclusion, be careful not to swing too far the other direction and exclude another group of potential employees in the process.

RELATED: Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

2. Incorporate Inclusion Company-Wide

The World's Most Ethical Companies know that inclusion and knocking out discrimination aren't jobs for just one department. These efforts need to be integrated into every aspect of your organization, from culture to policies to daily procedures.

That might seem like a large undertaking, and it is. However, breaking down your plan to use ethics to prevent discrimination into focus areas can help you get started.

Weyerhaeuser, a timberland company, lists actionable, tangible steps they take to make their diversity and inclusion program a reality.

To incorporate their plan throughout the entire company, they sort these actions into six key aspects of their business:

  • Leadership and Accountability
  • Equitable Practices and Policies
  • Recruiting and Hiring
  • Training and Development
  • Communication and Culture
  • Affinity and Connection

By making changes to these parts of their company, ethical behavior becomes intertwined into their daily business. This ensures employees company-wide work towards inclusion, not just a few.

Discrimination in your hiring process sets the tone for the rest of the company culture.

Download our free cheat sheet to learn 10 bias interrupters that can help you eliminate hiring discrimination in your organization.

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3. Hold Your Company Accountable

Making a plan to embrace diversity is great, but if you don't stick to it, your company is still part of the problem.

It's easy to forget goals you made at the beginning of the year or become lax about new policies as you get busy. But preventing discrimination should be a top priority all year round.

So, how do you make sure your company sticks to the plan? Hold everyone accountable by releasing an annual diversity and inclusion report, like 3M does.

Their Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report includes concrete examples of how they'll carry out initiatives, data to back up their plans, and ways that their employees around the world are encouraging diversity in their local communities.

Customers, business connections, and the public don't like companies they can't trust. Releasing your plans makes you more likely to follow through, boosting your image as a trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive company.

4. Encourage Employees to Speak Out

In order to be a truly ethical company, you have to accept the hard truth: sometimes unethical behavior, including discrimination, happens in your workplace.

Sweeping this information under the rug not only hurts the victim, but also the person who reported the incident, the morale of other employees and, potentially, your company's reputation.

Instead, encourage employees to speak up. Implement easy-to-use reporting systems (e.g. hotline, webform) and write a strong whistleblower policy that emphasizes your commitment to zero retaliation.

In addition, get employees involved in creating a diverse company free of discrimination.

PepsiCo's employees can join Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), safe spaces for workers who identify as LGBTQ+, military veterans, differently abled, and many different racial communities. Here they can brainstorm inclusion initiatives, raise concerns, and plan events that celebrate diverse voices throughout the year for occasions such as Pride Month events, International Women's Day, and Black History Month.

Through ERGs, employees can uncover problem areas within the company culture that are specific to their experiences. They can also encourage each other to bring up problems on an individual level, as well as work together to address company-wide issues.

When employees feel comfortable calling out discriminatory practices and come up with alternatives, they'll feel safer at work, leading to higher productivity and a more pleasant company culture.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Racial Discrimination in Hiring

5. Expand Your Anti-Discrimination Efforts Beyond Gender and Race

Finally, when planning how to use ethics to prevent discrimination, look further than just racial and gender diversity. These are two areas that need to be worked on, there's no doubt about it, but other minority groups deserve and require attention, too.

Allianz, a financial services provider, recognizes and addresses employees' unique needs based on their differences.

You can adopt some of their practices into your company's program, such as:

  • Including employees of different age groups in each team to encourage understanding and knowledge exchange
  • Providing psychological safety for LGBTQ+ employees at work
  • Hiring employees from varied cultural backgrounds and nationalities to offer diverse perspectives on projects
  • Making work spaces and equipment accessible to employees with differing abilities
  • Offering flexible work time models so employees can meet caregiving responsibilities and nurture their mental health

When thinking of how to combat workplace discrimination, ability, sexuality and family responsibilities could easily slip your mind. Look at employees' differences not as problems to accommodate but, like the World's Most Ethical Companies, as ways to make your company more innovative, creative and welcoming.

Need more help thinking outside the DEI box?

Download this free cheat sheet to learn about six lesser-known DEI categories and how to accommodate employees who fall within them.

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Using ethics to prevent discrimination makes the process flow more naturally. When executives and employees consider that DEI initiatives are essential to ethical business, not just a trend, the transition to new processes should be smooth.