Art of Accounting: Diversity insensitivity

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Diversity sensitivity means that we need to be aware of things that we do that make others uncomfortable, especially women and members of minority groups. With all of the attention paid to this, there is still insensitivity.

Here are some examples of what things people say or do that I feel are unsuitable and should be avoided. Some of these are illustrations of blatant discrimination:

  • Inappropriate comments, gestures, touching, mannerisms and jokes. Today, passive responses or attempts to ignore these kinds of comments and actions have been replaced with an active calling out of the offense. A lot has stopped, but there are still some that continue with paedomorphic behavior, thinking it is funny or that it makes them seem important (in their own pea brains).
  • Ingrained attitudes, language and descriptions by people who make no concerted effort to rid this garbage from their minds, that is now just not accepted when previously it might have been de rigueur or business as usual.
  • Soft skills training for women personnel so that they would be able to “perform better” working with men.
  • Performance review questions that are geared toward typically masculine topics or actions.
  • A workplace atmosphere that denigrates issues that are women-specific.
  • The “old boy network” or whatever it was called based on the profession or occupation that condoned racist and misogynistic actions and challenged anyone who tried to call anyone out on it.
  • Subtle and not-so-subtle behavior that is ignored or pooh-poohed, including stalking and leaving notes on a desk with suggestive or disgusting comments.
  • “Getting even” or “getting back” for ignoring passes through retribution, such as bad assignments or transfers from departments, as punishment for failure to get along or go along.
  • Overdone elevator brushes against someone, supply closet jam-ups, bumps into a colleague or exaggerated or uncalled-for hugs. Reasons that were provided in the past why these should be ignored — such as a generational or midlife crisis, or a drinking problem, and that it will pass, or myriad other spurious reasons given as a justification — have to be obliterated. This type of inappropriate behavior must not be condoned.
  • Stealth salary inequality where women and minorities were paid less than white men in comparable positions and responsibilities. Likewise, being passed over for promotions and other opportunities for advancement and growth, or better offices — both physical spaces and titles.
  • Making others the frequent, or even infrequent, butts of jokes or wisecracks with no recourse available.
  • Not taking victims who complain seriously, and thinking that they have "imagined” many of the instances.

People who have never been subjected to this type of behavior cannot understand the harm, hurt, disappointment and hopelessness felt by those who have had these and many similar actions directed toward them. It is a quicksand of losses and ego destruction. If it were a physical assault, it would be understood and there would be someplace to go. Not so with verbal assaults or gestures where a job could be lost if they spoke out or stood up. The perpetrators’ blatant discrimination lacked conscience or moral compass, and they usually got good laughs out of it.

There needs to be someone in the organization a target could appeal to or file a complaint with. Things must change! Bosses and their organizations must be more vigilant and must adopt a no-exception policy. If it requires making an example, it must be done. There can only be one way to handle this and it must be the right way.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions. I also appreciate the many emails I’ve received relating shocking experiences. I am trying to incorporate many of these in what I write. Just when I think I’ve covered it, I get more personal stories that further boggle my mind that this exists and has been going on for so long.

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Gender discrimination Gender issues Sexual harassment Practice management Ed Mendlowitz Diversity and equality