State of diversity: Annual poll shows there still are divisions among racial/gender lines in workplace

Survey by Taft, NJBIA and Eagleton shows minority groups, women still feel they face added challenges

Here’s the good news on diversity, equity and inclusion in the New Jersey workplace: Four out of five workers said they have daily interactions and relationships with people of different races and ethnicities.

Also good: Nearly three out of every four workers felt all employees at their work were treated the same regardless of race or ethnicity, gender or sexual preference — and fewer than half of the respondents said they personally have been discriminated against.

But, when you dig a little deeper into the data released this week in the annual State of Diversity poll, you find significant divisions remain along racial, gender and political lines.

The poll, a public opinion survey released by Taft Communications, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and New Jersey Business & Industry Association, showed there is still work to be done.

When asked if all employees are treated equally, Black respondents (34%) were significantly more likely than Hispanic respondents (23%) and white respondents (18%) to believe some employees are treated differently than others.

And while fewer than half — 44% — of New Jersey respondents said they have personally been discriminated against “often” or “occasionally” based on their race, gender, religion or sexual preference, the totals varied by category:

  • Among Black workers, 63% said they experienced discrimination often or occasionally, compared to 37% of whites and 45% of Hispanics.
  • Among females, 47% said yes occasionally or sometimes, compared to 40% of men.

For complete results, click here.

Ted Deutsch. (File photos)

The poll, which added a national component for the first time, showed all this and more. Taft CEO Ted Deutsch said it showed the state — and the nation — still have work to do when it comes to DEI.

“While there are many encouraging macro findings related to DEI in the workplace, the divide in perceptions by race, gender, politics and sexual orientation are a distressing confirmation of the increased polarization we see in so many aspects of American society,” he said. “In some areas, New Jersey is ahead of the nation, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Michele Siekerka, the CEO of the NJBIA, agreed.

Michele Siekerka. (File photos)

“It is encouraging to see New Jersey taking a lead over other states in interactions between races and ethnicity in the workplace — especially as we are one of the most diverse states in the nation. Hopefully, this trend continues in the positive,” she said. “However, the report suggests there are still more gains to be made when it comes to treatment at work and whether workers feel they have been the subject of discrimination.”

Three out of five New Jersey workers (61%) said their employer should play a role in promoting racial equality — such as making public statements about diversity or donations to related causes, or committing to a more diverse workplace.

But divisions could be seen in those numbers, too.

Blacks (72%) were significantly more likely than Hispanics (64%) and whites (56%) to feel that way. Among women, 64% agreed, compared to 56% of men. The split was greatest among political parties, as Democrats (81%) were far more likely than Republican (41%) to think so.

Ashley Koning.

While the murder of George Floyd brought questions of racial equity to the forefront of discussions, more than half of New Jerseyans (56%) felt the pandemic has had no impact on racial equity in the workplace (25% felt it has had a negative impact and 9% said a positive impact).

Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said the results show the importance of polling.

“It is more important today than ever to measure and quantify workers’ views on diversity in the workplace and begin to assess whether real progress is being made or we are just saying the right things,” she said.

“In this survey, we see markedly different personal experiences and perceptions of the workplace, remote work and the pandemic’s impact, as well as opinions on what employers should do to support workplace diversity.”