Though always considered a critical part of the employee experience, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have gained traction in the last couple of years. In fact, as of July 2022, all Fortune 100 companies have publicly committed to DEI.1 According to Culture Amp’s 2022 Workplace DEI Report, 85% of HR and DEI professionals surveyed believe their organizations are building a diverse and inclusive culture. 81% of respondents see DEI initiatives as beneficial to their organizations, and 71% reported that their organizations are doing more than just meeting compliance requirements.1
However, these positive perceptions and public-facing commitments aren’t necessarily indicators of real DEI progress. Diversity is often the only thing people have paid attention to. For employees, specifically women and people of color, the lack of meaningful action to improve equity and inclusion in the workplace has far-reaching consequences on their mental and physical health, career trajectory, financial stability, and many other areas of their personal and professional lives. There’s an undeniable need for organizations to offer work-life benefits—and a strong business case for doing so.
In part one of this two-part series, we’ll look at the disparities people of color face at work and how women taking on the bulk of caregiving responsibilities affects gender and racial diversity in the workplace.
The racial disparities of work-life support in the workplace
Increased pay, flexible hours, and the ability to work remotely are, in that order, the top three priorities of U.S. employees—across all generations.2 56% of workers said they’d change jobs if it meant having better work-life balance.3
But to achieve work-life balance, employees need work-life support. Unfortunately, the people who face the biggest work-life challenges and need work-life services the most—women and people of color—are the least likely to get it.4 This unjust disparity makes sense when you look at the data; just 41% of organizations said they have a formal DEI policy, and only 42% of those organizations have a documented process in place to enforce it.1
People in highly paid, white-collar jobs, most of whom are white men, have always had better options and more work-life support than blue-collar workers.4 They get work-life perks that other employees don’t receive; their needs such as childcare spots, flexible office hours, and time off of work are accommodated, while workers who have jobs perceived by management as easy to fill often get penalized for taking even one sick day.4
People of color are more likely to have low-wage, blue-collar jobs and have to work longer hours to make ends meet. Black and Hispanic families earn 61 cents on the dollar of white families and are twice as likely to live in poverty—alarming numbers that haven’t improved much since the 1970s.4 This is true even if they live in a two-income household, which is often not the case. 53% of Black families have either a single mother (41%) or single father (12%); single mothers head 25% of Hispanic families, while 12% are led by single fathers.4
People of color in the U.S. face many other challenges, such as barriers to accessing healthcare services, more pressure to prove themselves at work—even if they’re more qualified for the job than their white colleagues, and increased exposure to harmful social determinants.
How the “double-shift” undercuts workforce gender equality
Long-standing gender stereotypes make it more challenging for women to achieve work-life balance. Research, unsurprisingly, shows that 60% of working mothers who are in dual-career couples spend upwards of five hours a day on childcare and housework responsibilities—following a full day of employment.5
Women of color shoulder an even heavier burden. Black mothers are twice as likely, and Latina mothers 1.6 times more likely, than white women to handle all of the childcare and housework.5 Single mothers report spending an additional three or more hours each day on household duties,5 which has a wildly disproportionate effect on Black and Hispanic women, who are over twice as likely to be the head of single-parent households as white and Asian women are.4
For single and partnered mothers, “double-shift” workloads have an impact on their mental and physical health. 42% of women in the workforce report feeling burnt out, nearly double the burnout rate of men.5 Mothers are also the subgroup with the second highest rates of anxiety and depression post-pandemic.6
Almost a quarter of working mothers are worried that the stress, burnout, and missed work days from their caregiving responsibilities will negatively impact performance reviews and limit opportunities for career advancement. Just 11% of fathers share this concern.5
These racial and gender inequalities in the workplace are just the beginning. In part two of this series, we’ll explore how childcare and eldercare support can impact diversity, the importance of redesigning the workplace to better support women and people of color, and solutions for bringing these much-needed work-life benefits to your workforce.