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Nearly 60% of U.S. workers say they've seen workplace discrimination

Nearly 60% of U.S. employees say they have seen or experienced workplace discrimination — whether ageism, racism, or bias based on gender or sexual preference — according to a survey by job site Glassdoor.

Researchers said the findings suggest workers want a more inclusive environment around the office. "Creating a company culture that celebrates and respects people for their diverse backgrounds and experiences should be a top priority for all employers," said Carina Cortez, Glassdoor's chief people officer. "Employees must feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work, without the fear of prejudice or ridicule, whether intentional or not."

The results are based on a July online survey of roughly 1,100 employees. Respondents reported different types of discrimination in the workplace. About 45% said they've seen or experienced ageism; 42% said they've seen or experienced racism; 42% reported witnessing or experiencing discrimination based on gender; and 33% cited discrimination based on sexual preferences.

Perhaps surprisingly, workers age 34 and younger reported experiencing ageism more often than workers 55 or older did. Younger workers also reported racism and gender bias more often than older workers. 

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There's potential for those numbers to fall in coming years. Glassdoor said hiring for diversity and inclusion specialists at U.S. companies has jumped 30% in the last year, based on a review of jobs posted on the site. As of August, the firm had more than 1,000 postings for diversity and inclusion jobs globally, 810 of them U.S.-based. 

The openings signal that companies are serious about hiring more staff focused on preventing discrimination,said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor. "Many of these open roles range from middle management all the way up to the C-suite and focus on building or strengthening workplace diversity programs."

Zhao said many inclusion officers come from a human resources background, and they made a deliberate decision to focus on diversity in the workplace "because they are passionate about ensuring employees of all backgrounds feel welcomed and heard." 

Glassdoor data show that employers with offices in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., are leading the nation in the number of diversity and inclusion job openings. 

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Diversity officers are a good start, but companies must continue investing time and resources into making workplaces feel welcoming, according to Glassdoor. More than half of the survey respondents said their company should do more to increase inclusion efforts.

"It's critical for employers to actively listen to how their employees feel about what it's like to work at their company," Cortez said. "More importantly, employers must be willing and ready to take action to foster a workplace environment in which all people feel they belong."  

Glassdoor conducted a similar survey for workers in the U.K., France and Germany. Those results found that 55% of U.K. workers seen or experienced discrimination compared to 43% in France and 37% in Germany. The percentage increase of diversity officer openings were higher in Europe, but the U.S. had a higher number of available jobs.  

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