In the latest instalment of our mini series on inclusivity in the workplace, our Head of HR and Compliance Isabel Ros Ruiz writes about the microagressions that minorities face at work every day – and what can be done to help.

There are two simple goals in a diverse and inclusive workplace: to hire diversely and objectively and to retain LBTQIA+ and minority employees by creating an inclusive, fair, and comfortable environment.  

In hiring processes, we tend to think that biases or prejudices start playing a role as soon as we read an application or decide what candidates to meet. In fact, bias starts before: the wording of the job ad and where it is posted might bias the candidate pool. Research has shown that the language of the job ad can be feminine-coded or masculine-coded; however, while men will apply to jobs that are masculine and feminine-coded at the same rate, women are less likely to apply to masculine-coded job ads.   

The language and the publishing platform also affect your candidate pool: if you want a more diverse pool that includes minorities (especially ethnic minorities and immigrants), international platforms like LinkedIn are much more likely to attract a diverse pool than regional job websites like XING in Germany or Finn in Norway.   

At Sweet Tech, we anonymize all candidate applications. We also send — again anonymously — a survey to all candidates, which allows us to get data on the diversity of our applicants. We check our ads to ensure they are neutral and feminine-coded, and of course that they are open to applicants all over the world.   

Getting the candidate through the door is just the first step. A diverse and inclusive workplace is only possible as long as everybody feels they belong, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other personal trait.   

Many companies try to address inclusivity with grand gestures: diversity committees, projects, sensitivity courses, or donations to NGOs. While these measures are needed and effective, they fail to address the day-to-day inequality minorities suffer. That is, they fail to address the microaggressions.   

When we speak about microaggressions, we refer to brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups1. These microaggressions create a hostile climate and exhaust those minorities emotionally and socially – efforts to fight against these microaggressions are usually met with disparaging comments, such as “it’s just a joke” or “don’t be that sensitive”.   

Examples of these microaggressions are common. For example, referring to something negative as “gay” or making generalizations about a certain group of people – such as expecting a gay employee to like fashion or thinking that another employee cannot be lesbian because her appearance is feminine. Transgender people often face invasive, unwarranted questions regarding their bodies and their sexuality, such as whether they have undergone sex reassignment surgery. Even when not directed to a specific individual, these microaggressions can create an environment that is unwelcoming to people who belong to a minority.   

At Sweet Tech, we try to be mindful of the impact our words and actions have on others and thus we try to be inclusive in our language and communication. For instance, The Handy is not a “sex toy for men”, but rather a penis-oriented sex device, or an automatic penis stroker. If it works the same regardless of the gender of the person to whom the penis is attached, why should we exclude women or other people with penises?  

Changing the way we talk and relate to others is difficult, but it is extremely impactful. It is also something each of us can do – this effort isn’t limited only to those sitting on a diversity committee or to human resources professionals. Each and every employee can participate – and relate to – a common effort to make the company a better place for everybody.   

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