Taking the discussion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace past traditional definitions, a special panel at the 2005 Catalyst Awards Conference focused on the latest topics faced by human resources professionals: religion and sexual orientation.
The dynamic panel discussion, entitled “Different Dimensions of Diversity: Religion and Sexual Orientation in the Workplace,” was part of the annual Awards Conference presented by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization working to expand opportunities for women at work. It brought together two of the foremost experts in their respective fields: Dr. Georgette Bennett, President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, and Daryl Herrschaft, Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s HRC WorkNet program. Both Bennett and Herrschaft have had wide experience helping companies deal with issues arising in recent years as employees, in many cases encouraged by their companies, engage in more self-expression at work.
“Unlike race and gender, issues of religion and sexual orientation at work have really only come to the forefront of public discourse in recent years,” said David Megathlin, Senior Associate in Research at Catalyst and the panel moderator. “As a result of this increased visibility, workplaces are being asked to respond, but many managers don’t feel they know enough about the issues to do so.”
The panelists gave an overview of the issues companies currently face, as well as “best practice” suggestions for dealing with these two very different issues—and the delicate situations that can arise when they overlap. The wealth of information presented included the results of a groundbreaking study on religious tolerance in the workplace,which found that 66% of those surveyed reported some sort of religious bias in their workplace.
The panelists also gave advice to companies on how they might recognize bias in their environments and policies. Herrschaft discussed benchmarking techniques, such as the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, while Bennett focused on specific warning signs of bias and how companies can take action. Both presentations gave the audience a clear set of action steps for building inclusive environments at work, in keeping with the spirit of the Conference and Catalyst’s mission.
Catalyst is the leading research and advisory organization working with businesses and the professions to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women at work. As an independent, nonprofit membership organization, Catalyst uses a solutions-oriented approach that has earned the confidence of business leaders around the world. Catalyst conducts research on all aspects of women’s career advancement and provides strategic consulting services on a global basis to help companies and firms advance women and build inclusive environments. In addition, we honor exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with our annual Catalyst Award. With offices in New York City, San Jose, California, and Toronto, Catalyst is consistently ranked No. 1 among U.S. nonprofits focused on women’s issues by The American Institute of Philanthropy. For more information, please visit www.catalystwomen.org.