Diversity under Trump

Mixed views on whether the new administration will affect diversity efforts in the workplace

Glenn Townes | 5/22/2017, 6:13 p.m.
In the wake of the stunning and highly scrutinized election of business mogul and political neophyte Donald Trump as the ...
Carla Harris

In the wake of the stunning and highly scrutinized election of business mogul and political neophyte Donald Trump as the President of the United States last November, the mandate of fostering and maintaining a truly diverse workforce has been thrust to the forefront of social consciousness, according to industry experts across most specters of the hot button topic.

The workforce in the United States in 1965 was 90 percent white and women were not a predominate force in the workplace. Fast forward to 2015 and the U.S. workplace is about 35 percent diverse and trending up with many more women entering the professional ranks of the workforce. Since the first call for affirmative action in the late 1960s, the increase in minorities and women at work has been on the rise steadily. “Affirmative action was and is responsible for many women and minorities gaining additional educational opportunities and work place advancement,” said Linda Sharkey, co-author of the book The Future-Proof Workplace (Wiley, March 2017). Sharkey is a former senior human resources executive with Hewlett Packard and was also a human resources manager with General Electric. Sharkey said diversity in society and specifically in the workplace may be difficult to fully achieve because of who we are and what we believe.

“Our unconscious bias plays a particular role that cannot be ignored relative to advancement of women and minorities,” she said. “We all are raised in a social context that impacts how me make decisions and interact with others.”

As for diversity under the Trump administration, Sharkey said visual images of the Trump cabinet and advisors tend to support old stereotypes society has been working to eradicate for decades. “{Under Trump} The old subtle stereotypes come into play—predominantly wealthy white males in their late 60's to mid-70's [are] in positions of power,” Sharkey said. She added that while diversity incentives may no longer solely lie with Affirmative Action initiatives, the government cannot ignore its role in making equitable workplaces and opportunities for all of its diverse population.

However, some industry diversity and inclusion advocates disagreed.

High diversity and corporate responsibility standards set during the Obama administration was expected to sharply diminish in the age of Trump, however that is not happening, according to Joe Solmonese, managing director of the Delaware-based employment and professional consulting firm of Gavin/Solmonese. “In fact, many corporate leaders including some of our clients, are reaffirming and showcasing their commitment to diversity and inclusiveness,” Solmonese said. He added that businesses that don't invest in diversity efforts will be at a competitive disadvantage regardless of the political landscape.

To that end, Solmonese and others note that having a president that is willing to take an issue directly to the people via social media, namely Twitter--is an indicator that state legislators, community leaders, county commissioners and others will soon conduct businesses similarly if they are not already doing so. In New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker has long been a social media darling, with more than 3 million Twitter followers.

The Winters Group released a report entitled, Workplace Trauma During the Age of #BlackLivesMatter. Among other things, the comprehensive study examined how employees have been impacted by the disproportionate number of killings of African American men and women by police, and the subsequent implications for the workplace.