August 20, 2019

Exclusion through Inclusion? When Inclusion Backfires.

A recent headline about a University’s attempt to advance women in STEM academics caught my attention.  The article reports the U.S. Department of Education has opened more than two dozen investigations into universities across the nation that offer female-only scholarships, awards, professional development workshops, science and engineering camps.  for middle and high school girls. The article references a study that found 84% of about 220 universities offer single-gender scholarships.  What’s the worry?  Do these programs constitute sex discrimination?

It’s not just in academia. Remember the U.S. EEOC headline touting $1.1 million paid to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit? A male employee filed a charge alleging his employer’s paid leave policy discriminated against men.  Why? Because is provided new fathers, less paid leave to bond with a newborn, or with a newly adopted or fostered child, than it provided new mothers.

I was recently part of a discussion that included a conversation about workplace affinity groups.  Like everything, there are pros and cons.  My personal and professional experience with them has not been positive.  I find them more divisive than inclusive.  But, maybe that’s just me.

These are reminders for employers to give your policies, programs and practices related to inclusion due consideration.  Ensure that in your effort to reach out to ALL employees you do not inadvertently exclude others.  I share with you a related article written by my friend and colleague, Jonathan Segal, Esq.  It’s good food for thought.