How To Respond to Equality Objections At Work

May 12, 2023
Bethany Carter

We’ve heard it all when it comes to objections to equality and diversity efforts in the workplace. Pushbacks are more common than you might think and there are always those who will dig in their heels.

It can be difficult to understand and handle arguments against support for equality, but it’s important to listen and respond thoughtfully. By effectively overcoming common objections, we can create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

Here, we will share common arguments and phrases that may arise, along with strategies on how to respond effectively while ensuring all employees feel respected and valued…


“We don’t do quotas”

A diversity target is different from a quota. Targets can be viewed as aspirational goals indicating the strategic direction toward which your organization wants to move and are voluntarily set. A quota, on the other hand, is a mandated outcome and more rigid.


“We only want the best person for the job”

Setting diversity targets is about attracting the best talent by expanding who is most often thought of as “the best person for the job”. By actively seeking candidates from diverse backgrounds, the company can broaden its talent pool and gain access to a greater number of qualified candidates who bring a variety of experiences, perspectives and skills.


“This is reverse discrimination”

This statement is often said by someone from a dominant group in the workplace in response to diversity targets. Catalyst has conducted several studies on Engaging Men in Gender Diversity Initiatives and found that one of the reasons the men resist participating is fear, and more specifically, the fear of losing out in the workplace with an increase in the representation of women in leadership. This fear is often based on the misconception that there is a finite “pie” from which everyone gets a piece at the company. However, diversity and inclusion are associated with all sorts of benefits including economic growth, thereby increasing the size of the overall pie. Nobody’s piece is getting smaller, and depending on the amount of growth, everyone’s piece may end up bigger than before.


“There aren’t enough qualified women”

This statement can often be said by hiring managers who perhaps don’t know of any women within their existing networks to fill a particular role. There usually are many women potential candidates for an open position and they can be found through using several tools such as wider outreach, reviewing postings for potentially exclusive language, and requiring diverse slates.


“We don’t have the time or money to prioritize diversity”

This statement is often said by those who do not understand the business case for diversity and inclusion and therefore do not realize how diversity & inclusion can benefit the organization across a number of key performance indicators.

Unconscious biases are part of the resistance and unfortunately, it’s likely that you will encounter some pushback around equality and diversity. Still, it’s important to remain professional and calm, familiarise yourself with the facts, practice active listening and use effective communication skills to respond appropriately.

Meaningful conversations are key when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace, so when objections arise, try to see them as an opportunity to have conversations that address bias and create change.


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