• Article
  • Aug 14 2020

UK Research Aims to Improve Diversity in the Workplace: How You Can Help

Photo of Brianna Henson, Jacob Lewis and Kristie Colon

We make assessments every day, often unconsciously. Should I snooze my alarm? What should I wear today? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I respond to this email right away, or wait until later? Brianna Henson, director of assessment in the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, is tapping into the unconscious to better understand diversity, equity, its role in the workplace and the emotional burden of participating in diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace.

"My interest in this started after I attended a diversity activity on campus," Henson said. "I noticed some areas that needed improvement and wondered how this translated to various workplaces across the country."

Henson is part of a group of researchers who are pushing toward a more inclusive, holistic cultural competency training program in the clinical health science professions. Their goal is to design a comprehensive program where cultural competency is embedded throughout the curriculum and not siloed in individual activities.

"Most of the work on emotional burden has focused primarily on white women and motherhood," Henson said. "This research is really the first of its kind. My hope is that we identify trends to help improve organizational inclusivity and combat injustice and inequity."

In this study, diversity work is defined as having any involvement in the promotion of or participation in your organization’s diversity and inclusion programs, exercises, activities or initiatives. It is important to note that this survey is not trying to determine how “real” a diversity and organizational climate is. Instead, it aims to assess the emotional burden of participating in diversity and inclusion activities in order to identify future areas of growth and development that can help inspire organizational change.

"I want this study to encourage organizations to take a step toward more equitable practices while striking a healthy balance between swift actionable steps that support our members of color and helping people manage the discomfort of having necessary and thoughtful conversations around equity and inclusion," Henson said.

The survey is open to anyone in the workforce, whether or not they identify as a person of color. Respondents must be 18 years or older. The survey should take about five minutes to complete.

"Diversity and inclusion practices are everyone's responsibility," Henson said. "We need to ensure that it does not just fall on the shoulders of historically underrepresented groups or diversity and inclusion officers. Our hope is that this national survey will help us obtain reliable data on attitudes, behaviors and opinions associated with employees who engage in diversity work."