Systemic oppression is the intentional mistreatment of individuals or groups of individuals based on their identity. It is upheld and implemented by society and its institutions.
What does systemic oppression mean?
Systemic oppression is the mistreatment of a social, ethnic or racial group, perpetuated by governments, schools, healthcare systems and other socioeconomic structures. Oppression that occurs at the institutional level contributes to power imbalances and discrimination. This results in severe disadvantages for specific groups.
The oppression that is embedded within the fabric of society through policies is much more difficult to combat. It results in the subordination of a group through practices that act in favor of another dominant group.
Some examples of systemic oppression
- Racism: Systemic oppression and discrimination against people from certain minority groups based on their race or ethnicity. This typically occurs in areas of education, employment, housing and healthcare.
- Gender Inequality: Gender wage gaps, restricted access to representation in leadership positions, and societal norms that perpetuate gender roles and stereotypes.
- Ageism: Marginalization, stereotyping, and discrimination against individuals based on their age. It manifests through employment practices, hiring processes and social biases. Older employees may experience limited access to resources and opportunities, inadequate healthcare, and face negative or discriminatory attitudes.
- Ableism: Discrimination against persons with disabilities is common and stems from practices that favor able-bodied individuals while excluding people with disabilities.
- Anti Semitism: Prejudice, discrimination and hostility against Jewish people takes many forms. Some of these include hate speech, violence, exclusion and discriminatory policies.
Addressing systemic oppression in the workplace
Discrimination and prejudice that are the result of a corporate policy or practice can be defined as systemic oppression.
Here are some strategies for addressing systemic oppression in the workplace:
- Revising policies and implementing a combination of practices that effectively address systemic oppression in the workplace. These should also actively promote unbiased treatment in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, hiring, training and promotion.
- Promoting a diverse leadership by actively seeking out individuals from underrepresented backgrounds for key leadership positions. This must include diverse hiring practices and promoting a more inclusive workplace culture through corporate training and dialogue.
- Analyzing and capturing relevant data that can better inform an organization’s decision-making. Collecting data that pinpoints certain hiring trends as well as identifying potential disparities. This is a powerful tool that organizations can use to gain insights into their practices and identify any potential biases.
- Implementing robust diversity and inclusion training programs for all employees, including managers and leadership, to raise awareness about unconscious biases and promote cultural competency. A robust corporate training program is a powerful tool for achieving a more inclusive and respectful work environment.
- Creating channels for reporting incidents of discrimination. This must be accompanied by a commitment to carry forward thorough investigations for the purpose of building a safe and supportive environment for all employees.