Systemic inequality refers to disparities in wealth, resources, opportunities, and privileges that result from discriminatory practices and are deeply ingrained within the structures and institutions of society.
What is systemic inequality?
Systemic Inequalities arise from policies based on discriminatory ideas that create inequality within the legal, educational and governmental systems. They show that certain factors, such as gender, sexual orientation and race, heavily influence an individual’s chances of thriving within their society.
Systemic inequality is interchangeably used with the term structural inequality (or institutional inequality), which refers to the same type of institutionalized discrimination. It highlights the deeply rooted nature of inequality that contributes to the disadvantage of certain groups. Some of its subtypes are racism, sexism and homophobia.
Factors that contribute to systemic inequality
Structural inequality is based on a system of privilege that is perpetuated by institutional policies.
Some of the factors that contribute to systemic inequality are:
- Unequal power relationships
- Discriminatory hiring practices
- Unequal access to quality education
- Limited economic opportunities
- Biased criminal justice systems
- Unequal distribution of healthcare resources
- Restricted political representation
Some examples of systemic inequality
In areas of education
Students from low-income households often receive a lower quality education than students from more affluent backgrounds. This comes from a lack of adequate school funding in disadvantaged neighborhoods, insufficient resources, limited access to advanced education and a lack of qualified teachers.
In housing and homeownership
The practice of zoning is a sort of systemic segregation that separates communities based on several criteria, such as income and race. Wealthy neighborhoods with a predominantly White population get more green spaces, parks, and recreational facilities compared to the apartment complexes inhabited by low-income communities. It can also lead to disparities in homeownership lending, or unfair mortgages for borrowers that come from marginalized communities.
In countries where healthcare relies on a private health insurance system the quality of healthcare is connected to income. A good income gives access to good healthcare, while individuals with no income or limited financial resources often struggle to afford medical services and treatments. This disparity contributes to systemic inequality, as individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have a harder time receiving adequate medical care.
Addressing systemic inequality in the workplace
Addressing systemic inequality in the workplace requires a series of proactive measures, such as diverse and inclusive hiring practices, unbiased performance evaluations and equitable promotion opportunities.
Here are some key strategies:
- Fostering inclusive leadership that helps reduce unintentional systematic prejudice. This requires awareness, and a willingness to examine policies, practices and decision-making processes within the corporate organization.
- Promoting a culture of diversity that promotes equal opportunities for all employees through recruitment strategies, mentorship programs, and special resource groups.
- Establishing reporting mechanisms that track and monitor progress. This may include creating channels for employees to raise concerns or report incidents of discrimination.
- Encouraging an open dialogue among employees from diverse backgrounds. This creates opportunities for cross-cultural teamwork and promotes employee engagement that contributes to the company’s inclusivity initiatives.