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Study Says Bias Takes a Physical Toll

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Study Says Bias Takes a Physical Toll

Women and people of color frequently report feeling marginalized, even blatantly discriminated against in the workplace.

Data on income levels and roles in executive and board positions in companies across the country lend support to the argument that these groups may not be seeing the same opportunities as white males.

For women of color, the impact can be compounded. And, while the career and financial impacts of unequal treatment in the workplace are significant, new data suggests that there may be health impacts as well.

An article for the Network of Executive Women (“NEW”) reports that women of color experience an emotional tax that affects their overall health and well-being. “Women of color, who often feel undervalued and subject to bias, are constantly ‘on guard’ because of their gender, race or ethnicity,” says NEW, citing data from a report by Catalyst based on 1,600 U.S. professionals working in business, nonprofit, education and government sectors.

That stress doesn’t just have behavioral implications related to mental health. It’s widely accepted that stress can lead to negative physical manifestations as well. According to the American Psychological Association, “ The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.” Mayo Clinic lists a number of physical effects of stress: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset and sleep problems.

Related: Ten Statistics on the Benefits of Diversity

The NEW article argues that the physical toll the stress of unequal workplace treatment can generate is yet another reason that companies need to take concrete and effective action to ensure certain groups of employees aren’t unnecessarily stressed due to company policies and practices, whether intentional or unintentional, explicit or implicit.

What steps are you taking to ensure that your workplace isn’t causing unnecessary stress for your staff members?

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