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Critics of Peer Review Ask How ‘Race Science’ Still Manages to Slip Through

Two scientific papers in South Africa have raised questions among critics about the quality — and potential biases — of international peer review.

July 22, 2019 by Sarah Wild

As soon as Barbara Boswell began reading the journal article, the associate professor of English at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa says she was surprised about the language it used. Even the title and the abstract set alarm bells ringing, she recalled. “As I read further, I saw more problems.”

The controversial paper, “Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in Colored South African women,” was published in March in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition following peer review. The authors, from South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, claimed to show “low cognitive functioning” in this group, which they attributed to low education levels and risky lifestyles. (In South Africa, “colored” is one of the four officially recognized racial categories — a relic of the apartheid system — along with white, Indian/Asian, and black African.)

In April, Boswell spearheaded a petition for the journal to issue a retraction. “The article is published as scientific research but draws on colonial stereotypes of African women, and ‘colored’ South African women specifically, as intellectually deficient,” Boswell and her co-authors wrote. “The article relies on flawed methodology and science, perpetuating harmful, racist stereotypes.”

More than 10,000 people, including scholars and ordinary citizens, signed the petition, which was ultimately successful: The journal retracted the paper on May 2. But this wasn’t the only recent scientific article in South Africa to face fierce criticism on its methodology and treatment of race. A second paper, also published in March in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, claimed to show that inhabitants of countries with lower IQs were more likely to be sold as slaves between the 15th and 20th centuries. Following an outcry, the co-author resigned from his position as an adjunct professor at the UCT.



Together, the papers raise questions regarding how such research made it through peer review, a process in which academics validate studies prior to publication. Peer review is considered by many researchers and academics to be the best quality-check for scholarship, but others point out that it can be flawed, opaque, and susceptible to bias.

Both papers were subjected to reviewers in internationally-published journals despite appearing to dabble in race science, which regards race not as cultural construct, but as a biological variable that can be used to make allegedly scientific conclusions about groups of people. Many experts consider biological notions of race to be largely debunked, making the appearance of such research in the global literature, where it can then be used to undermine the rights and dignity of entire communities, particularly problematic. “Scientific racism was used to justify racist policies like apartheid,” says Boswell. “It was used to make an argument about the inferiority of black people, indigenous people, and why they needed stewardship because they were not fully capable of looking after themselves and the land.”

The two papers show “how shoddy peer review can be at times,” says Agustín Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame. “The ideal is good — great, in fact — but it does not always work out. I think that there are also a lot of biases about race and gender in the academy in general. And in too many cases those biases go unchallenged and result in things like these getting in to print.”


It has been 25 years since the end of South Africa’s apartheid government, which separated people based on race and often relied on flawed race science as justification, and the country still struggles with racial tension and systemic divisions that drive inequality. The academic system reflects these realties: White researchers still occupy half of all university posts despite accounting for just 8 percent of the population, and they publish about two-thirds of academic research.

Stellenbosch University, for instance, was mainly reserved for white students and staff under the Afrikaans-speaking apartheid government. The school has been attempting to address its racist past and transform its university body by increasing scholarships to previously disadvantaged racial groups, hiring more diverse staff, and switching from Afrikaans to English as the main medium of instruction. Eugene Cloete, the vice-rector for research, innovation, and postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch, says that the paper on colored women has set the university “back years.”

Cloete suspects there might be other published articles from the university with racist assumptions, and he is personally reviewing thousands of ongoing projects for racial insensitivity. Still, he says, some blame should lie with the journals. The paper “was published in an international, peer-reviewed journal,” he says. “We publish 1,800 papers a year here through thousands of different journals. We have to rely on peer review.”

Cloete and Boswell, along with other researchers, argue that peer review should have caught what they say is flawed research in the Stellenbosch study. The study’s authors, a team of sports scientists, assessed self-identified colored women from a township in the Western Cape. The sample size was limited, with just 60 women, but they extrapolated the results to apply to millions of people. The researchers also made assumptions about the group, identifying it as racially homogenous when it was actually diverse. And, based on a measure of cognitive ability that has been shown to be inapplicable to South African populations, the researchers made sweeping claims about the poor cognitive abilities of colored women in general.

“The study is based on ideological assumptions that are deeply rooted in a racialized and racist history,” says Garth Stevens, president-elect of the Psychological Society of South Africa. “Those assumptions are overlaid with a set of scientific methods that are themselves fatally flawed.” As a result, the generalizations about a particular population group “become spurious and a real indicator of poor science.”

Corresponding author on the paper, sports scientist Elmarie Terblanche, said she was not allowed to comment as the matter was under investigation.

The academic publisher, Taylor & Francis Group, confirmed that the article was peer-reviewed, but that editors retracted it after Boswell’s petition took off. When Undark asked the organization for comment, press coordinator Saskia Kovandzich said “I’m afraid that nobody is available to discuss this issue with you.”


While the Stellenbosch article was retracted, the one on slavery and IQ was not. That article, “Intelligence and Slave Exports from Africa,” was published by a team of economists in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics by Sage Publishing on March 28. The team claims to show that African countries where people have higher IQs experienced lower levels of slave exports than countries which had lower “cognitive ability.”

The lead author, economist Simplice Asongu, listed UCT as his institution on the paper, but he was an adjunct professor rather than a full staff member, says Elijah Moholola, a university spokesperson. And the university doesn’t stand behind the findings, Moholola adds: “UCT rejects the assumptions of the paper and this line of research as bad science.” Asongu has since resigned.

Sage did not respond to an interview request.

Like the Stellenbosch study, the methodology of the UCT paper came under scientific scrutiny. The paper claims to prove that countries with higher average IQs saw fewer inhabitants sold into slavery because they were smarter and thus better able to escape, confront enslavers, and organize resistance.

Asongu and his co-author, Oasis Kodila-Tedika, an economist at the University of Kinshasa, show this through linking, among other variables, countries’ IQ; their capacity for technology adaptation, inferred from previous research; the landscape’s ruggedness; and historical population density.

The authors assume most types of intelligence can be captured through IQ tests. But the idea that it is possible to determine the cognitive ability of entire countries is problematic, says Adam Haupt, a professor in media studies, who specializes in race discourse. He points out that there is plenty of research showing IQ tests can be inaccurate and unfair. “There’s a cultural and ideological bias embedded in those tests,” Haupt says. “Science is seen as non-ideological, but we know that’s not true.”

When Undark contacted Asongu for comment, he said he wouldn’t discuss the matter through non-scientific media, adding: “Anybody questioning the robustness of the findings should have his or her comments peer-reviewed and published in a scientific medium, then I will also respond through the same scientific medium or other scientific media.”

But peer review is part of the problem. “If it was a predatory journal” — a journal which charges researchers to publish, but doesn’t offer rigorous services such as peer review — “then you’d understand it,” says Haupt. But “Sage is a reputable publisher. It has you asking questions about their peer review process. All of the supposed safeguards fell flat. Why did editors not ask how sound was this methodological approach? How much do we know about IQ?”


It remains unclear why, exactly, the papers from Stellenbosch and UCT made it through peer review. “A charitable interpretation would be laziness and genuine oversight on the part of the reviewers,” says Angela Saini, a science journalist and author of “Superior: The Return of Race Science,” a new book on the resurgence of race science since it fell out of favor following World War II.

“A less charitable one is that they let this through because they share with the authors some commitment to the idea of biological race — an idea long ago discredited by mainstream scientists,” she adds. “Either way, the system must be flawed in some way or this wouldn’t have happened.”

Regardless of the reason why, it’s common for faulty papers to slip through peer review, says Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, a watchdog publication for scientific publishing. “There are 1,400 retractions per year, and there are others that should be retracted but aren’t,” he says. “Peer review is a porous system.”

Recent reports reveal that system is under pressure. A 2016 study in PlosOne, looking at biomedical research, found that the responsibility for peer review is concentrated in the hands of a few reviewers. At the same time, the volume of scholarship requiring peer review continues to increase at about 3 to 3.5 percent each year. And there is also bias when it comes to who gets to be a peer reviewer. In its Global State of Peer Review 2018 report, for instance, the peer-review tracking website Publons found that established regions review more than emerging regions; in fact, there was not an African country in the top 20 nations that supplied reviews. And an investigation into gender and international diversity at the biosciences journal eLife found that an all-male review team was more likely to accept papers with male authors, and gatekeepers were also more likely to accept papers whose authors were from the same country as them.

“Humans are fallible and peer review has subjective aspects to it,” explains Cassidy Sugimoto, a professor of informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington and a co-author on the paper.

Part of that subjectivity comes from personal worldviews, but it also encompasses the scholarship reviewers and researchers are exposed to. Editors tend to choose reviewers who have read the same body of literature, Sugimoto adds, and may be oblivious to valid work disproving their viewpoint. In the case of race, there is plenty of well-established scholarship, she says, but mostly in fields that are unfamiliar to researchers and reviewers.

“A number of disciplines outside of the humanities need to engage across those boundaries to think critically about what they do as researchers,” says Haupt. “What does it mean to be a scientist in a world that is trying to undo colonialism, systemic racism, sexism? How do you undo the systemic racism, sexism?”

“You need to interrogate your position and the history of your scholarship,” he adds.

Still, there are moves to change the system. One way is to have a more diverse pool of reviewers, Sugimoto says. Another is to have partially open peer review, where reviewers and authors know one another’s identity and their comments are public.

“If peer review is the mechanism to determine validity of work, open peer review would be accountability and transparency,” Sugimoto says, although she adds that this could spark other problems, such as junior reviewers damaging their careers by openly challenging a senior academic. One way to avoid this would be to make only the reviews, rather than the reviewers’ identities, public.

These fixes, perhaps, could have halted the publication of the papers about colored women or countries that experienced slavery. “I’m sure there are lots of pieces of research like this,” says Boswell.

Such work “doesn’t come out of nowhere,” she adds. “This comes out of a context.”


Sarah Wild is a freelance science journalist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This article was originally published on Undark. Read the original article.


This article is under Undark’s copyright and does not qualify for the Creative Commons license J2DW normally uses.

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Is addressing Addiction in the Workplace Worthless?

An addiction is a condition where a person engages in the use of a substance or indulges in a type of repeated behaviour. An addiction’s rewarding effects provides an incentive to continuously repeat the behaviour despite serious consequences. Addictions do not only include what people consume, such as drugs or alcohol. Addictions come in many different forms from gambling to seemingly harmless products, such as chocolate. Addictions can include virtually anything. When a person is addicted to something they can become dependent on the addiction to cope with their life.

Workplace morale consists of the emotions, attitudes, satisfaction, and overall outlook of employees during their time in a workplace environment. A portion of effective workplace productivity is thought to be directly related to the morale of the employees. Employees that are happy and positive at work are said to have positive or high employee morale. When someone is consuming drugs or alcohol, it can dramatically change a person’s behaviour, and these negative changes in personality will lower the workplace morale. Workplaces that maintain employees who are negative about their work environment usually have low employee morale.

The effects of workplace addictions can be frustrating, upsetting, and devastating. Substance abusers are more likely to cause injuries, accidents, and even fatalities in the workplace. Health and safety regulations are expected in any workplace and the risks posed by addiction simply cannot be allowed. When employees do not feel safe in their workplace the morale will decrease. Addictions can increase the likelihood of harassment, bullying and other unprofessional behaviours. These inappropriate behaviours will likely cause other employees to feel unsafe in their workplace environment. A drug-free workplace is more likely to be successful at maintaining an accident-free environment and prosper.

Addictions are costly for workplaces and individuals when addictions are left unaddressed. Supporting an employee who is struggling with an addiction can be a huge challenge for many employers. Addictions can make employees less productive. Absenteeism is one of the significant killers of corporate profitability. Many addicted employees lose their jobs and remain unemployed as a result of their addiction. Other employees may end up in jails, prisons, or long-term rehabilitation facilities, which can result in years of lost productivity. Employees find it to be difficult to get themselves back into the workplace after years of unemployment due to substance abuse or various other addictions. Absenteeism costs Canadian workplaces over $16 billion per year. In Canada, drug use and drug abuse is a problem that not only ruins the lives of the users and their families, but also costs workplaces a total of $23 billion dollars or $1,100 per person.

Policies should be developed to address any workplace issues that are associated with addictions. Workplace policies should be clearly defined. Employers must make reasonable accommodation efforts for employees who seek help with addiction, allowing time off for detox or counselling. This approach is recommended for encouraging workplaces to invest in their employees and reduce the total long-term costs related to substance abuse. Voluntary disclosure allows for treatment without risk of being fired and eases the stigma related to addiction. Workplace culture and employee commitment to recovery are critical to reducing substance use affecting the workplace. Policies will be most effective in an environment that discourages substance use but also discourages discrimination, stigma and potential prejudices. When addiction issues are effectively addressed, workplaces will have a better opportunity to be successful.

Sources:
Addiction: A Workplace Depressant?
Canada Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction
Psychology Today

This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

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4 Essential Tips for Workplace Cultural Acceptance

When working at an environment that is home to people from diverse backgrounds, it is important the workplaces know these cultural and individual differences in order to have programs or diversity. A means to bond rather than wedge a divide between them. It might not seem like much. A harmless holiday celebration without negative impacts on others but these little celebrations of one culture could be a sign of spreading disgruntlement.

Some adoptable strategies:

  • Weekly meetings – not simply a chance for a wonderful work-related update, but also gives a chance to talk and know if there have been issues. This maintains a line of communication with employees.
  • Call out unacceptable behaviour – if you see someone taking an opportunity to put down someone else based on something they do not have any control over (e.g., race, sex, gender, age, skin colour, hair type, and so on), then call them out on it. If the management does not see it and correct it, then it could perpetuate.
  • Encourage your employees to report potential instances of workplace discrimination – this perpetuates a healthy employer-employee relationship and creates an environment where employees feel heard, respected, and treated with dignity.
  • Try encouraging acceptance of all cultures by having a team potluck lunch/dinner – it will encourage them to know each other and one another’s their culture, and provide a chance to bond over something that has worked like a charm for centuries: food.
  • It is difficult to change cities, maybe start a new job in a new field, a career away from home, or have other woes, no matter what problem one might face, non-acceptance by fellow workers could be the worst of them all. Imagine spending 8-9 hours in the company of fellow coworkers who do not accept you probably silently judge you as well.

    It is important for the management to step up and bridge the divide between the employees and let acceptance seep into the core of the company’s structure. Once it’s a part of the foundation, the company will emerge stronger than ever.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Scott Douglas Jacobsen.

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    Fire Safety & Prevention

    Fires destroy property, cause injuries, and take lives. The goal of fire prevention is to educate the public to take precautions to prevent potentially harmful fires. The general population needs education about the dangers of fires and how to survive a fire. Fire prevention is a proactive method of reducing emergencies and the damage caused by them. To prevent a fire, the objective is to keep sources of ignition and fuel separate from one another.

    The best defense against fire in the home is preparation. People should create an evacuation plan. This plan should be regularly rehearsed to avoid panic and confusion in the event of a fire. Fire hazards, such as matches and lighters, should be kept out of the reach of young children. Small fires should be put out with a fire extinguisher if possible. Large fires, or fires that begin to spread, should be left for firefighters.
    Smoke alarms should be placed properly in homes and checked regularly to ensure the smoke alarms will notify people when a fire occurs. To get help as quickly as possible, children should know to dial 911 as soon as a fire is noticed. People are approximately 66% more likely to sustain a serious injury or death in homes without smoke alarms. Smoke alarms will not eliminate the risk of dangerous situations, but smoke alarms can reduce the risk of serious injury or damage occurring in the home from fires.

    Fire safety and education should start early even if this training is only basic, to begin with for children. A fire extinguisher is an active fire protection device used to extinguish or control small fires in emergency situations. A fire will generally be a more traumatic experience for children than for adults. Developing and reviewing a simple fire plan can help children to minimize panic and to stay focused on escaping the dangerous situation. Children must know how to call for help, use a fire extinguisher, how to get out of a burning building, and what actions to take should their clothes catch on fire. Young children may learn this kind of information using simpler language and visuals, so they understand as much as possible.

    Mental or physical disabilities can create barriers that can increase the risk of serious injury or death from a fire. Each person needs to have a strategy for getting out of a building quickly in the event of a fire or another emergency. Fires can happen whether we are at home, at work, or in a public area such as a mall, theater, or hotel. Anyone who has reduced mobility, a speech, hearing or visual impairment, or a cognitive limitation may need assistance to evacuate a building in an emergency. Preparation and planning are the keys to surviving in an emergency situation. Strategies should be in place to prevent injuries for all building occupants. The more information captured in emergency procedures and plans, then the better equipped emergency managers will be in the event of an emergency.

    In most Canadian provinces, building managers are required to maintain a list of at-risk individuals in their building, whether a workplace or a residential building. While individuals are not obligated to identify as being at risk, it is in their best interest to communicate their evacuation needs and abilities to avoid putting themselves and others at risk. Emergency managers and individuals should work together to plan the best, most suitable evacuation and assistance strategy. When proper fire safety planning and education takes place, everyone will be more likely to be safe from fires and other dangerous hazards.

    Sources:
    Canada Fire Safety and Prevention
    Disability Barriers and Hazards
    General Fire Safety Tips
    Stats Canada

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

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    The most boring article on Fire Safety in the Workplace

    Fire prevention is an important component of workplace health and safety programs. An effective fire prevention program provides employees with the tools and information needed to work safely, and protect the workplace and employees from the devastation of fire. Human personnel, property, and environmental losses can have a significant negative impact on workplace ‘production, morale, and continued expectations of success. The damage resulting from even a small fire incident can be detrimental to a workplace’s ability to remain in business.

    There is specific legislation about fire prevention in the Canadian provinces. There are fourteen jurisdictions in Canada. One federal jurisdiction, ten provincial, and three territorial. Each with occupational health and safety legislation. This legislation outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor, and the worker.

    The Occupational Health and Safety Act, gives the Government of Ontario the power to make regulations while also setting out the general principles and duties for workplaces. The Ontario Fire Code is a regulation made under the Fire Protection and Protection and Prevention Act, consisting of the minimum requirements for fire safety within workplaces.

    The business owner is responsible for complying with the Ontario Fire Code. The Building Code Act is the legislative framework governing the construction, renovation, and uses of workplaces. The purposes of the Ontario Building Code include public health, safety, and fire prevention; although, its primary purpose is the promotion of public safety through the application of building standards. The Ontario Electrical is intended to ensure safety considerations and protections for workplaces keep pace with the new technology and building needs.

    All workplace personnel have a role to play in ensuring health and safety requirements are met within the workplace. Workplace assessments can be useful in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of employees and employers in a workplace. The reason for fire risk assessments is to keep people safe. By establishing current risks and possible barriers to safety, solutions can be found before an emergency situation occurs. It will be more difficult to develop during a life-threatening fire event, especially when barriers to safety arise.

    Analyzing the issues and factors that are creating the current issues in your workplace helps to develop effective solutions to accomplish workplace goals and to allow the workplace to become more successful. Accommodations for employees, if needed, ensure the health and safety of each employee including those persons with disabilities. Workplaces should be responsible for complying with safety regulations and guidelines to ensure a better opportunity for a successful workplace.

    Sources:
    Canada Acts and Regulations
    Fire Safety Procedures For The Workplace
    The Effectiveness of Workplace Assessments

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

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    Attitudinal Barriers in the Workplace

    Attitudinal barriers are the challenges, or barriers, experienced by people with disabilities in the workplace. Attitudinal accessibility refers to eliminating attitudinal barriers that discriminate against people with disabilities. Attitudinal barriers include thinking that people with disabilities are inferior or assuming that a disabled person with a speech impairment never understands you. Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively based on their race, age or disability. Canadian employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees. Employers are required to make every reasonable effort to accommodate an employee’s individual circumstances that relate to discrimination.

    Discrimination can be decreased when there is awareness of the potential misconceptions or negative attitudes towards employees, including disabled persons, within the workplace. Employers must not discriminate on the basis of a disability or a perceived disability. Employers must make it clear that harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated. Harassment must be investigated and corrected as soon as employers become aware of it. An effort must be made to eliminate the various types of discrimination, and the associated social stigmas, that can exist in workplaces.

    Attitudinal barriers are the most basic barrier and contribute to other barriers. People may not be aware that difficulties in getting to or into places can limit a disabled person from participating in everyday life and common daily activities. People sometimes will categorize or stereotype disabled people while assuming their quality of life is poor or that disabled people are unhealthy because of their impairments. Some types of disabilities may be similar, but can pose different challenges or impairments for disabled people within the workplace. Employees should be aware of the individual needs of all of their employees to be able to maximize workplace productivity.

    An inclusive workplace environment should be created where each employee is valued and respected. Every employee will bring various skills, strengths, and weaknesses to the workplace. For a workplace to be successful, employers must be aware of how to properly manage these skills, strengths, weaknesses, along with the individual needs of their employees. Attitudinal barriers are behaviours, perceptions, and assumptions that discriminate against people with disabilities. Attitudinal barriers are also ways of thinking or feeling resulting in behaviour that limits the potential of people with disabilities to be independent individuals. Attitudinal barriers usually lead to illegal discrimination which cannot be easily overcome.

    To eliminate attitudinal barriers, the best solution is for employers and employees to familiarize themselves with employees living with a disability. Do not assume what employees or clients with disabilities can or cannot do. Members of a workplace should be trained to effectively interact and communicate with people with different types of disabilities. Employers must understand the types of accommodations for disabled people, some of which are low cost to the workplace. Being aware of attitudinal barriers allows the workplace to cooperatively develop strategies to overcome the barriers. Workplaces will be more successful when employers and employers are able to cooperatively work together as a cohesive unit in an inclusive workplace environment that encourages respect and an awareness of each employee’s individual needs.

    Sources:
    Disability Barriers
    Discrimination and Other Workplace Barriers
    Overcoming Attitudinal Barriers
    Solutions to Attitudinal Barriers

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

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    Promoting Social Cohesion Through Diversity and Inclusion

    Social cohesion refers to the social factors that bond individuals at the community, national, or universal levels. It occurs through the building of positive social relationships.

    This involves the willingness of members of society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper and an accessible community with a barrier-free environment. One that does not limit anyone’s participation in everyday life.

    Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It includes an understanding that each individual is unique and recognizes the individual differences of people in a society.

    Social inclusion improves on the terms that individuals and groups take part in a society. A socially inclusive society is where people feel valued by others. Their differences are respected. Their basic needs are met, so that people can live in dignity within the society.

    Inclusion is a feeling of belonging, being treated fairly, and providing people with an equal opportunity to be successful. Social exclusion is a process where people are denied full access to various rights, opportunities, and resources that available to members of a different group in the society.
    Diversity and inclusion can promote social cohesion. Social cohesion a means to bond diverse groups of people in working toward a common goal for the improvement of the society to benefit the well-being of everyone.

    Social cohesion is when people live peaceful lives. When diversity is accepted in societies, they begin to be more productive innovators by approaching problems from different perspectives.
    Some of the benefits of social inclusion cohesion are people experiencing a sense of belonging in community with an increased level of acceptance, providing valuable societal roles to increase individual self-worth, and developing stronger social bonds between people from a wider range of diverse backgrounds.

    When people experience even some of these conditions in their life, they will more likely be happier and healthier. In non-inclusive societies, people are more likely to experience poor physical and mental health, loneliness, isolation, and lower self-esteem.

    Several people with various disabilities unnecessarily experience life in a worse way. Unfortunately, these people may not have gained a sense of presence in their community due to not having adequate access to the social activities to significantly enhance their wellbeing.

    People with disabilities may also lack opportunities to work, learn, and develop social relationships with others. Disabled people are sometimes not acknowledged in their community with their skills and unique perspective, where they are untapped or underutilized by society.

    Strategies should be developed to promote social cohesion through diversity and inclusion. When a society becomes invested in promoting social cohesion through diversity and inclusion, every person can benefit and societies can be more successful by utilizing the skills and abilities that each member of society has to offer.

    References:
    Diversity and Inclusion Aids Social Cohesion
    The Upside of Diversity and Inclusion
    Why Diversity?: Advocacy and Issues
    Why Social Inclusion?: Advocacy and Issues

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

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    Diversity for Productivity

    According to the University of Florida, people are living longer and the world’s globalization will require further interaction from people who are more diversified and come from an array of backgrounds. Typically, they work in diverse and varied environments and this raises questions about tracking this trend and adapting to it. Companies want to perform better in the business world and many would like to advance diversity as well.

    The importance of a diverse work and business environment is to be able to maximize and capitalize on workplace productivity and effective management. This places a lot of responsibility on supervisors and managers. We see that the workplace environment is continuing to evolve with the times and that the culture and workplace will follow suit. Based on the report, Diversity in the Workplace from the University of Florida, companies looking to embrace diversity and have inclusive organizational structures will likely gain greater productivity and competitive advantages. Thus, those workplaces that do not choose to evolve will potentially lose productivity.

    There are some questions that arise from companies planning or thinking about evolving. How do you do it? What forms will it take? To do it is simply to build a structure from which to onboard people from diverse backgrounds. The forms that it will take will be much more diverse and inclusive from the managerial side all the way down to interns. Of course, as noted in the research, “there is no single recipe for success.” The manager’s ability to be able to understand teamwork and the dynamics of the team in the workplace is very important. A manager or supervisor wants to look into things such as equal employment opportunities in order to capitalize on the larger talent pool, especially when looking at a broader base of the variables for potential employees.

    In addition, the manager or supervisor may want to look into the means through which those throughout the hierarchy of the organization can find advancement. If an intern, they can potentially be promoted to part-time or full-time employment. If a full-time employee, they may be able to be promoted to some sub-managerial or supervisory role. As the article summarizes, a diverse set of teams can bring a higher value to organizations in addition to respecting individual differences that can provide an organization or business with a “competitive edge” and increase in “work productivity.”

    Many workplaces in the modern era have diverse backgrounds, people, educational experiences and certifications, and so on. If this comes into play, then it will eventually result in a higher productivity of the organization as a whole towards its stated mission, mandate, and goals.

    References
    Green, K. et al. (2002, June). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools. Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HR/HR02200.pdf.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Scott Jacobsen and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

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    11 Tips on Respect & Inclusion in the Workplace

    It has become a lot easier since back in the day, to express gender and sexuality issues in the workplace. When one could not express a fundamental part of oneself, it tended to hamper the outflow of work. However, with that being said, it does not mean that it has been easy for our current generation. There are still problems that one faces at the workplace in the aspects of respect and inclusion. A ‘closed’ environment can significantly impact an individual’s involvement in the organization, potentially resulting in low staff morale, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and retention difficulties.

    When employees have been working together for a long time, it is likely that they become a tight-knit group and it can make it difficult for new employees to become part of that group. New employees aren’t aware of the group’s internal dynamics yet and can feel left out if everyone is calling out ‘Pepperoni’ at 4pm and you are the odd man out. Therefore, Human Resources departments have come up with techniques to help new employees or an existing employee who is not quite settling in yet to feel included at the workplace. Almost 45% of the employees who leave the workplace do so because of their seniors. That can be a large factor in deciding whether to stay with the company or not.

    Here are some Human Resources techniques to help new and existing employees:

    i) Open and Effective Communication – provide open communication channels and feedback. This optimizes the opportunity for discussion of issues related to inclusion and discrimination. Having complaint boxes or walk in policies with one’s supervisor would encourage individual’s to open up about the issues bothering them, which would in turn lead to employees feeling more comfortable
    ii) Political Differences – everyone has different opinions and they must feel comfortable sharing them with their colleagues, as long as they are work appropriate. This can help build bridges with people who may share similar opinions
    iii) Build Relationships – learn about the cultural backgrounds, lives and interests of employees outside of the workplace. Building relationships through increased understanding and trust helps to foster inclusion. (Who knows you may even find someone who you have a lot in common with and could help you move up the corporate ladder)
    iv) Get Involved – be creative, flexible and look for new opportunities to join events the company is having such as the annual company picnic
    v) Equal Opportunity – This is geared towards employers, as they have to ensure all employees have the equal opportunity to take part in decision-making and planning for social activities
    vi) Special Days and Events – it is important to recognize and acknowledge special days and events such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride celebrations, etc
    vii) Create Intranet-based Multicultural Calendars – this helps avoid scheduling important meetings on major cultural holidays so that everyone feels respected and heard
    viii) Permit Flexible Schedules – this helps employees who observe religious practices can arrange their schedules around their beliefs. This ensures that the employees know that you respect their faith and also being accommodating
    ix) Acknowledgements of Faiths – there are many different faiths in a workplace and the employer needs to respect them. This does not mean employers have to throw parties at every religious holiday but acknowledging it and giving the leeway for a day off will go a long way in building rapport between the employee and employer
    x) Accommodating for Employees with Disabilities – for employees that are blind, in a wheelchair or have visual impairment, the employer needs to be accommodating. Have signs in Braille, audiocassettes, make the office accessible with a ramp, elevators, handicap washroom and parking spot
    xi) Mental Health – it is important for employees who are suffering from mental health issues to know that they can talk to someone and that they are not alienated. Keep communication doors open and ensure them that they are in a safe environment and provide them with people they can talk to if they need it.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

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    Voices of our Nation

    8 holiday issues in the workplace

    T’is the season to be jolly, fa la la- la la, said no employer ever. The holiday season is where tough decisions at the workplace are at their highest. Holiday parties and holidays, in general, can be an opportunity for employers to improve workers morale such as using holiday bonus incentives. However, the holidays can also be a stressful time where efficiency goes out the window and employers need to have a handle on things and prepare accordingly.

    It is that time of year where your office may do Secret Santa or simply exchange gifts with everyone in the office and it can be stressful picking out friendly but appropriate gifts. That is just the tip of the iceberg for employers as they typically will host either an office holiday party or take their employees out for lunch/dinner. As an employer, you hope that your employees know how to conduct themselves, but it is a good idea to make guidelines to ensure things don’t get out of hand. For example, employers could enforce a two-drink limit at a restaurant or simply have the party in the office where drinking would not be permitted. It is important to understand that office parties are not the same as getting together with friends. There may be similar elements such as uncomfortable flirtation or awkward tension between those who don’t see eye-to-eye. What is important for employees to remember is you are still representing the company and any misconduct, especially in public or within the office will reflect badly on you and your company.

    Some issues that an employer needs to undertake and be prepared for are:

    i) After the holiday party or lunch/dinner, making known to all employees that taxi services are available
    ii) Drinking limits are strictly enforced (not allowing someone to give away their drinking ticket to someone else)
    iii) Include all of your employees, invite everyone to lunch/ dinner or make sure everyone knows when the office party is so no one is excluded
    iv) Have a budget set out for holiday parties and know what the company is able to spend
    v) Include other religious holidays, Christmas becomes the dominant holiday while other religious occasions or beliefs are set aside
    vi) Look out for sexual harassment, bullying, and aggression, especially when alcohol is in the mix
    vii) Account for productivity and make it known amongst your employees what is expected of them before December hits. Not knowing how much work will get done may cost the company if shipments aren’t made in time or sale expectations weren’t met
    viii) If an employer needs to fire an employee during the jolly month of December, it is good to try and stay in touch with your other employees. It may induce more stress on your employees if they think they will get fired as well.

    It is important to know that there is a thin line between party and ‘partaay.’ Both the employers and employees must respect this line. Though holiday parties can be a lot of fun, we don’t want to see them get out of hand and end up costing the company in litigation fees.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.