How Corporate America is Changing Today
Gen Z is one of the most diverse generations in American history. For example, teenagers and young adults that make up this generation identify more often than any other part of the American population as queer (between 15-20%, depending on what study you look at). They are also the most ethnically diverse group in today's generation. Only 52% of Gen Z in the United States are white, and statistics project that in 2045 white people will be the minority. In addition, 10% of the generation born before Gen Z, millennials, also identify as LGBTQ+, which is an increase from their previous generations.
Diversity in the workplace has always been important; however, with millennials and especially Gen Z, the people currently entering the workforce, being as diverse as they are, it has undoubtedly become something that corporations cannot ignore anymore. And many of them are not.
I had the privilege of participating in a trip to Los Angeles organized by the National Millennial and Gen Z Community. Throughout the trip, I noticed how much of a focus the corporations put on being diverse, listening to their employees, and generally having "diversity in thought." As someone who had lived in Germany her entire life and who, in her job, has been surrounded by exclusively white, almost exclusively straight people and who had never heard of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) before, I was a little surprised about that.
An excellent example of that is the issue of sexuality in the workplace. In America, around 50% of all employees are afraid to talk about their sexuality at work openly and to out themselves to their co-workers. In Germany, on the other hand, it is almost 65%, which puts Germany last out of all 19 countries analyzed for the study conducted in 2019. Of course, both numbers may not be perfect, but it shows how corporate America is more open about topics like this than Germany is. And for a good reason.
It already starts in the hiring process. When businesses do not address the issue of sexuality, they can miss out on important potential candidates. Because when highly qualified LGBTQ+ people do not find their identity openly talked about by their employer, they do not even apply.
In another survey, 72% of all participants said they would be more likely to work at a company that actively supports the needs of the queer community. The same goes for other identities like race. As a lesbian, I did appreciate the focus the companies I visited put on diversity, especially on making their workplaces feel as safe as possible for everyone.
The idea of Employee Resource Groups, to "provide support and help in personal or career development and to create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table," is remarkable, mainly because it cannot only foster self-expression but also community and most importantly exchange between people. It would make employees feel safer at their workplace and make them appreciate the company more. This takes us back to businesses being able to hire more diverse and qualified people because potential employees now know that the company cares about their workers. It is a very positive cycle.
One thing I also appreciated was how investors are slowly starting to also care about diversity in the workplace, next to the topic of sustainability, which is another example of how priorities are shifting for the better. Workers will always be more productive when they feel safe at their workplace, and a company will always bring better results the more diverse it is. I am happy to see businesses and their workers thriving because of it.
We all know that America is constantly changing, and corporate America and the rest of the world must do the same.