Survey Finds Limits to Diversity in the Garden State

May 18, 2017
A new study on diversity finds that exposure to diversity depends on location during the day.

By David Cruz

America. We’re the great melting pot. We love to celebrate how diverse we think our circles are, but a close look at a new study on the state of diversity finds that our exposure to people who don’t necessarily look like us, depends on where we are at any given part of the day. The main finding?

“The workplace is a far more diverse place than where people live,” said Krista Jenkins, executive director of the FDU PublicMind Poll. “So New Jersey is clearly a melting pot, but when you look at the number, people are more likely to engage with people from different backgrounds, different walks of life in the workplace than they do at home.”

Eighty-six percent overall, in fact, according to the poll. Among millennials 18 to 34 that number is 91 percent. But when they leave work and head for home, the numbers drop to 64 percent overall. Even among millennials it falls 14 percent to 77 percent.

The FDU PublicMind Poll conducted the poll in conjunction with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and Taft Communications.

“This survey is not the first to find that people, for the most part, do tend to gravitate more to people who are like them when they leave the kind of forced environment of a workplace,” Jenkins added.

But the study found that the relative diversity of the workplace does not always translate into a comfortable workplace for everybody. Asked whether they had ever heard things in the workplace that might be considered offensive to certain groups, overall the numbers from last year to this stayed the same, slightly down for white people from this year to last, but almost doubled from last year to this among non-whites.

“Because New Jersey is such a diverse state the importance of people having tolerance to different types of cultures in the workplace, understanding how to act with each other, understanding what’s appropriate or not is very important,” said NJ Business and Industry Association President Michele Siekerka. “So I was really pleased to see the high numbers of New Jersey businesses that are providing training, number one, and have good policies in effect that are yielding good results.”

Seventy-eight percent of workplaces, according to the survey. The result? Eighty-six percent of workers overall say they feel comfortable reporting discriminatory behavior to their employer.

“I think it is a good thing that people are reporting incidents of bias and harassment,” said Christopher Irving, whose company helps employers with diversity training. “The challenge is that many people still don’t report it. So the fact that you go from 6 percent to 12 percent, or double those numbers, is alarming because what about all the incidents that go unreported, that folks don’t share, don’t talk about?”

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a lawmaker with libertarian leanings, whose dad, in the interest of full disclosure, runs a different polling service, says bunk to all this talk of diversity: in the home, in the workplace, wherever.

“I personally think it’s profoundly destructive to be concentrating on things that divide us rather than things that unite us. Theodore Roosevelt put it best. There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americans and that was more than 100 years ago,” he countered. “If you study evolution, you know that the African diaspora began 60,000 years ago or so. We are all African-Americans, it’s just simply a question of how long our ancestors left the old sod.”

The poll doesn’t go into the whys behind the numbers, but the pollsters suggest that it provides an opportunity for all of us to look at the disparities between how we see things and act upon them in the workplace and at home.