Published April 2, 2024

Estimated read time: 5 minutes


How to empower underrepresented groups in the workplace

Underrepresented employees are those who are not proportionately represented in a particular workplace or industry relative to their presence in the overall population or labor force. This can include various groups of people who historically have been marginalized or excluded from opportunities and positions of power and influence.

These groups may include, but are not limited to,

1. Women

2. People of colour

3. LGBTQ+ individuals

4. People with disabilities

5. Older workers

6. Veterans

7. Individuals from low-income or underprivileged backgrounds

It's important to note that underrepresented groups can vary depending on the context, location, industry and individuals may face multiple forms of discrimination and marginalisation based on their various identities.

Why does underrepresentation occur? 

Underrepresentation can occur due to various systemic and structural factors that create barriers for certain groups to access opportunities, resources, and positions of power and influence. Historical discrimination, bias and stereotypes, inequitable policies and practices, socioeconomic factors and lack of role models and mentorship are some of the many reasons why underrepresentation occurs in industry.

By understanding the factors that contribute to underrepresentation, employers and industry leaders can address underrepresentation to create a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Why should employers invest in underrepresented employees?

​​Underrepresented employees can bring a unique perspective and value to organisations. Here are some ways in which underrepresented employees can be valuable to organisations:

1. Better Problem-Solving: Underrepresented employees can bring fresh and diverse perspectives to the table. They can offer a unique outlook on business challenges and opportunities that might not have been considered by the majority group. This diversity of thought can lead to more innovative ideas and better decision-making.

A study by Scientific American found that diverse groups are better at problem-solving than homogeneous groups. The study found that diverse groups were more likely to consider a wider range of information and perspectives, leading to better decision-making.

2. Improved Financial Performance: According to a study by McKinsey & Company, companies with more diverse workforces are more likely to have financial outperformance. Specifically, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

3. Cultural Competence: With an increasingly diverse customer base, it is essential for organisations to have cultural competence. Underrepresented employees can bring a wealth of cultural knowledge and understanding to help organisations navigate different cultures and customs. This can lead to improved customer service, better relationships with clients, and increased brand loyalty.

4. Enhanced Innovation: When employees come from different backgrounds and experiences, they bring a wealth of creativity and ideas to the table. Underrepresented employees can help organisations think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to complex problems.

A study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams had 19% higher revenue due to innovation. This suggests that having a diverse team can lead to more innovative ideas and products, which can ultimately improve financial performance.

5. Better Employee Acquisition: When underrepresented employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. This can lead to increased productivity, lower turnover rates, and better overall organisational performance.

According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering job offers. This suggests that having a diverse workforce can help organisations attract and retain top talent.

Why coaching for underrepresented employees?

Coaching for underrepresented employees can be beneficial for both the employees and the organisation. Here are some reasons why coaching is important for underrepresented employees:

1. Addressing Unique Challenges: Underrepresented employees often face unique challenges and barriers in the workplace. Coaching can help these employees develop strategies for overcoming these challenges and navigating the workplace successfully.

2. Career Advancement: Coaching can help underrepresented employees develop the skills and knowledge needed to advance in their careers. This can be particularly important for employees who may not have access to the same career development opportunities as their majority group colleagues.

3. Building Confidence: Help underrepresented employees build confidence in their skills and abilities. This can be particularly important for employees who may face imposter syndrome or other forms of self-doubt.

4. Developing Cultural Competence: Coaching can help underrepresented employees develop cultural competence and understand the perspectives of others. This can help them work effectively with colleagues and clients from different backgrounds.

5. Addressing Bias: Coaching can help underrepresented employees identify and address any implicit biases they may face in the workplace. Through coaching, employees can develop strategies to navigate bias, challenge assumptions, and advocate for themselves.

6. Providing Support: Coaching provides underrepresented employees with a supportive and confidential environment in which to discuss challenges and opportunities. This can be especially important for employees who may feel isolated or unsupported in the workplace. 

Coaching for underrepresented employees can help address unique challenges, promote career advancement, build confidence, develop important skills and competencies, and enhance their overall well-being and satisfaction in the workplace.  

Conclusion

Underrepresented employees are individuals who belong to demographic groups that are not proportionately represented in a particular workplace, industry, or field. These groups may include, but are not limited to, women, people of colour, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those from low-income or underprivileged backgrounds. Underrepresented employees bring significant value to organisations in terms of financial performance, innovation, problem-solving, talent acquisition, and employee engagement. Thus, it is beneficial for employers to provide tools and methods through modes such as coaching for furthering their self-improvement. By embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace both employees and organisations see significant benefits alike.