By Robert Stitt
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a Federal law forbidding discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established to investigate claims of discrimination and enforce the law. In 1972, the commission was given permission to define “discrimination”. While Title VI technically only applies to businesses that receive federal assistance, the laws have evolved to cover businesses and other private employers “who have15 or more employees who worked for the employer for at least twenty calendar weeks (in this year or last).” If the employer falls under these rules, they cannot discriminate based on “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, disability or genetic information.”
Despite the number of laws, court cases, rulings, etc., a recent study by Jopwell, a diversity recruitment platform, found that nearly 40 percent of minority engineers who work within the technology industry feel that they have been victims of discrimination or bias in the workplace. Of those who responded in the affirmative, “69% indicated they had experienced racial bias, 16% said gender and 11% said sexuality.”
The researchers felt the biggest “take away” from the survey was not new information, but the acknowledgment and verification of what minority employees already knew was true. “We knew about the issues minorities were facing in terms of lacking access and exposure in technology. But turning these anecdotes we had into a study was really eye-opening for us and showed us what we knew to be true.”
Jopwell was started in 2014 to help employers better identify how they were doing in terms of diversity. The thought was that when discrimination definitions were too broad companies may not understand where they are falling short. Co-founder Porter Braswell explained, “At Jopwell, we focus on one aspect which is black, Hispanic, and Native Americans. So Jopwell offers solutions specifically for that demographic and part of the success of Jopwell, and the reason for companies like us, is that we are very targeted with the communities we serve.”
The part of the survey they found particularly useful and informative showed that “85% [of those surveyed] agreed that a fair workplace will include people from all races and 70% agreed their company can be doing more to promote multicultural understanding.”
While there have been a number of companies that have made significant improvement and there have been shifts in the industry, some things remain the same. “We’ve seen some progress in the workplace in recent years, but there is still unconscious bias that can manifest within organizations.”
The good news is that some progress has been made, which means change is possible.