Inclusion, Anti-Harassment Initiatives Won’t Be Successful If You’re Not Managing Bias: New Data Shows

Business productivity measures such as employee retention are related more to social justice than to the bottom line. A recent study by MIT links the Great Resignation to ‘“failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.’” Shedding additional light on the issues underlying this movement, a recent study by Emtrain and Worklife Law* found managing bias is key to creating inclusive and respectful workplace experiences. Here is what our data showed:

1. Bias impacts respect and inclusion

Bias suppresses people’s experience of respect by 41% and inclusion by 53%. So, if  you’re trying to create a workplace that is free of harassment, you must also manage bias. We also found that the attitudes and behaviors that fostered respect correlated with those that created inclusion by 34%, which says that although respect and inclusion are similar, they are not the same.  

2. Women of color experience more bias and less respect than anyone.

WorkLife Law’s Bias Interrupters framework and Emtrain’s Workplace Social Capital framework both show that not everyone experiences work in the same way. Both teams found that

  • White men have the best experiences
  • Black men and white women have comparable experiences
  • Women of color experience more pushback and less acceptance than anyone else.

Women of color believe they have to work harder than others to be valued, experience backlash when they are assertive, experience more microaggressions, have fewer career development opportunities, and feel less accepted in the workplace.

3. There are important links between respect, inclusion and sexual harassment.

WLL conducted tests to investigate whether bias, belonging, or career development opportunities were different for people who reported sexual harassment compared to those who did not. They found that people who reported sexual harassment experienced more bias, harsher judgement felt less likely to be able to advance their career, and felt belonging. 

Organizations that address respect, bias, and sexual harassment holistically will be more effective than organizations that launch unrelated initiatives.

Most organizations manage harassment, inclusion, and respect in different functional silos:

  • legal teams manage discrimination and harassment claims to protect the organization
  • human resources teams select anti-harassment training 
  • learning & development teams deploy training
  • diversity leaders are tasked with building inclusion

Yet, this siloed approach is flawed because our research has shown that issues of bias, inclusion, respect, career development and harassment are inextricably linked.

Our research concludes that there are three steps to jumpstart this evolution: 

  1. Coordinate across silos. Design and deliver anti-harassment training, bias training, employee relations, and inclusion/culture initiatives in conjunction with each other. 
  2. Use metrics to establish baselines and measure progress. Don’t analyze harassment claims data separate from diversity and inclusion or culture-related data. 
  3. Integrate training into everyday work. Constant, innovative, bite-size, asynchronous, engaging, and realistic training provides the positive reinforcement required to learn new practices.

Download your free copy of the Research Paper: A Data-Driven Approach to Winning the War for Talent During the Great Resignation: Ending Silos Between DEI, Culture and Anti-Sexual Harassment Initiatives.

Request a conversation with one of our experts to learn more and how we can partner with your organization to create a holistic training program.

*This blog post was written by Dr. Leann Kang Pereira, Senior Director of Organizational Psychology at Emtrain and Laraine McKinnon, Talent and Culture Strategist at Emtrain. The blog post is based on new research by Emtrain in partnership with Joan C. Williams, a renowned scholar on bias, and her team at the WorkLife Law Center at University of California – Hastings (WLL).


harassment preventioninclusionunconscious bias
Dr.Leann Kang Pereira
Senior Director of Organizational Psychology
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