The Effects of Workplace Racism and Sexism

One day it’s a covert statement to a mother returning to work after maternity leave. Another day it’s a lingering gaze at an employee enjoying a culturally rich meal. These microaggressions (or sometimes macroaggressions) can take an employee from a confident, high-performer to one that feels insecure being themselves at work. Your employees engage with people with different ideas and feel most comfortable and valued when they can work without losing their cultural, racial, and gender identity. While most employers know this, why have workplace racism and sexism often been neglected?

workplace racism and sexism statistic

A Recent Example

Every word we speak is forever – a fact that often limits our first amendment rights, especially regarding discrimination. We recently saw this play out in February when a visionary behind an immensely popular cartoon seen by millions of people each year made racist comments during a live stream.

Forever is how long it will take for this creator to redeem himself. Countless media platforms courageously spoke out against his negative comments and severed ties. While we see the immediate and noticeable results of this creator’s actions, many don’t consider how his words have affected the people he works with.

cartoon from dilbert, the author who made racist comments on a live stream

Everyone the creator works with behind the scenes is either 1.) searching for a new job or 2.) trying to find ways to explain whether or not they agree with the statements he made and why. Even people who may not agree may stick around because working in a creative industry is a coveted experience. They may not get many other opportunities that look like this. But though they may stick around, there is still the thought in the back of their head that their boss, and maybe some of their coworkers, cannot be trusted.

Of course, people aren’t racist or sexist on purpose, right?

We all know that, in most cases, people are not racist or sexist on purpose. Ultimately these behaviors come down to three possible explanations: ignorance, society’s rules, and fear.

Historically, society operates on a set of rules and stereotypes. The rules that create stereotypes are just thinking shortcuts; those shortcuts often remain the same while society evolves. Unfortunately, some people, like dated stereotypes, don’t evolve with society either. As a result, those people conform to old societal rules, remain uneducated about diversity, and fear change (or being different).

Instead of welcoming diversity, we make excuses or hold people of color and women to a higher standard. Instead of addressing discrimination or inequality, we tell women and people of color that they need to have thicker skin or not take things so personally. This removes the right to feel safe, causes stress, and reduces job satisfaction. So, it’s no secret that these demographics receive less pay, fewer promotions, and less work/life balance. Victims of racism and sexism become emotional and lose faith in their employers when they do not see their employers address discrimination with a sense of urgency.

Think of your workplace as its own little society. Ignorance, stereotypes, and fear become more prevalent when your workforce has less diversity. What one person may interpret as their reluctance to let someone in from the “outside” can actually be their reluctance to accept the variation that comes with unifying races and genders.

Workplace Racism and Sexism Prevention: 3-Step Method

So what can employers and HR do to ensure their company does not become the next ____?

three-step method to fighting workplace racism and sexism


Education is a powerful tool. Impactful educational programs are an important weapon against racism and sexism. It’s essential to constantly introduce new workshops and situations where team members actively learn about other cultures and perspectives. For example, DEI training should be implemented during onboarding just as any other industry-specific training. Companies should also take the initiative to discuss and spread awareness concerning global cultural events so employees can learn from their counterparts.

Reevaluate Company Culture

Policies that prohibit discrimination and sexism should be more than a document that employees sign. Knowing that the law gives clear directives of what should not be tolerated is a motivating factor in encouraging open, transparent, and inclusive work environments. Use the laws as a blueprint for developing programs and policies that work well for your company culture and overall growth goals. Your company’s long-term success depends on it. Like racism, sexism touches every part of our world, and when it carries over into the workplace, it can feel devastating.

Be Consistent

In the average workplace, racially charged and sexist remarks may be subtle, but they are just as impactful. The impact is most likely felt when disruptive behavior goes unchecked by the employer. Not only can this gaslight victims, but you also create a hostile work environment. Instead, you should aim to uphold policies and standards. Each time there is an incident, refer to your company’s morals, values, and policies (they should all align).

Reducing instances of racism and sexism in the workplace starts with educating, nurturing, and holding your current employees to a higher standard. Then, it’s time to recruit and diversify your workforce. If you’re ready to add more employees of all ages, ethnicities, and genders, then post a free job on Job\Searcher to get started.


  1. Who wrote this and why are they and you trying to brainwash us with ‘woke DEI’ . I’m looking for a job not a lecture on how to act.
    If I see someone eating an ethnic meal, I may be interested in eating it myself, Should I feel bad if I stare at them?
    People notice differences and have a right to.

    • Christa Reed Reply

      This is a newsletter/article to help employers who may want more insight into Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion practices for managing a diverse workforce. So there’s probably not much information in here for you if you are looking for a job. You may find more helpful information in job posts that aren’t categorized under company.

  2. Coralee Benjamin Reply

    You included sexes and races, but no mention of one of the biggest (and this post confirms it), the disabled! Way to marginalize! Talk about glass houses….

    • Christa Reed Reply

      Thank you for the feedback. The title is The Effects of Workplace Racism and Sexism. The aim was to address races and sexes in the newsletter. Ableism is a real issue and deserves its OWN spotlight to highlight how employers can recruit and retain people with disabilities. This was not the article to do that because it could have taken the focus of attention away from the newsletter’s main point. However, we do believe that ableism should be addressed in the workplace.

      Here is some other content you may be interested in:

  3. What about the father coming back from paternity leave? What about the lingering gaze at the Christian praying over his bland, traditional meal? Is it society’s rules or fear that makes him feel unwelcome? Or, is it your ignorance?

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