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Diversity & Inclusion Series: The Under-Recognized Workplace Effects of Income Diversity

Published: March 5, 2019

Author: Meredith Ausenbaugh

Creating a more diverse, inclusive culture has been one of 3Q Digital’s biggest initiatives since 2017, and it’s not just about becoming a better business; it’s about being better people. As part of this initiative, we present our second week-long blog series dedicated to issues we’re trying to address, how we’re trying to address them, and the challenges we’re encountering as we go.

If you find yourself in a situation with a coworker or friend discussing matters of diversity, there’s a large chance topics like race, gender, ability, and maybe even sexual orientation come up. In recent times, these defining human factors have been given a greater weight within society — both in and out of the workplace. After all, it is our race, our gender, our ability, and even our orientation that directly impacts who we are and how we navigate every aspect of society.
Another factor that may not immediately come to mind, but should be considered vital (especially in the workplace), is the reality of income diversity. It’s hard to spot and doesn’t come up much in conversation, but it can directly impact a person’s experience and presence within the workplace. In this post, I’ll explain a few ways it happens.

Client dinners can be fun, but picking up the check can be more stressful for some than others.

Unpaid Internships

Internships are the golden pathway to experience, and by effect, employment within our industry. A quick Google search can tell you that compensation for an internship is a hotly debated topic among college advisors, students, and of course employers. I’m sure we have all heard the argument that internships shouldn’t be about the money if someone is getting career exposure, valuable experience, and the opportunity to explore her interests beyond academics.
However, if we take a step back, unpaid internships may also be keeping qualified applicants out of your reach. College tuition is on the rise, and finances, along with the prospect of debt, can be overwhelming. In order to offset the costs, many students need to find paid work over the summer and/or throughout the school year. Summer internships can also require students to live outside of college or hometowns, which leads to added costs of living.

Fronting Work-Related Expenses

In most of our jobs, there will come a time when we will have to front the cost of expenses, whether that means booking travel or treating a client to dinner. While our employers do a great job to ensure reimbursements happen in a timely manner, situations like this may be a stressor on a coworker’s budget. For example, while paying for a coast-to-coast flight out of pocket may not break the bank for someone at the Director level, it is possible that this, or even paying for a new hire’s lunch, may strain the budget of a more entry-level employee. For me, this situation is a great reminder to always be mindful of my presence and position as it relates to others in the workplace.

Income Inequality at the Highest Levels of a Business

While we have uncovered a few situations where income inequality is less apparent in the workplace, always remember that it can be found even at the highest levels of a business and can then permeate the ranks. Over the years, several studies have explored the reality of the gender pay gap. Though the idea that men may make more than women in the labor markets remains a point of contention, here at 3Q equity is paramount for us.
Speaking for myself as a woman in the workplace, and an employee who strives for my growth within my company, it truly is great to see reflections of myself at the highest level (we recently promoted two women to the executive team, which was genuinely celebrated across the company). If you don’t see yourself reflected in your company’s leadership, it can be a not-so-subtle deterrent to your own career aspirations within that company.
Diversity in the workplace, in every way, is crucial and it will forever be a work in progress. Is your company doing something cool to make sure diversity is top of mind? Leave a comment below to get the conversation started!

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