Movies That Can Broaden Your Understanding Of Diversity Issues In The Workplace

Understanding the nuances of diversity issues in the workplace is no longer a topic that leaders can ignore or just give lip service to. With movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, we’ve gone past the point in history where issues of marginalized groups can be swept under the rug.

Each of us, regardless of our background, can benefit from expanding our awareness and understanding of individuals who are not like us. The more we explore different perspectives, experiences and struggles, the better our ability will be to minimize biases and work to eliminate macro and micro-aggressions in the workplace, while gaining the immeasurable benefit of diverse talent.

However, with so many complex issues under the umbrella of this topic, where do you start? Many companies are carefully crafting programs and services to help their staff with this. But in the meantime, taking advantage of this time to binge and explore movies with a purpose can help you get a running start at expanding your perspective. Below is a breakdown of some of the current and critical diversity topics and the films that can help you gain a deeper understanding of people who are dealing with the challenges they pose on the job.Recommended For You

Racism – It may be hard to face the fact that Black people’s history with work in this country stems from the ugliest truth about America; we built a great deal of our businesses and capital on the backs of enslaved humans. Watching a film like 12 Years a Slave should be done from a lens that this isn’t some old story from our history but that this is the foundation from which Black Americans have had to build their success.

To help understand the far-reaching ramifications of this, watching the documentaries 13th and I Am Not Your Negro can give you a broader comprehension of how slavery has created a systemic culture of racism. It’s also important to understand how the legal system impacts people of color, consequently damaging their opportunities for employment. Films such as Just Mercy can help put a spotlight on the damage and extreme prejudice present in our legal system.

Finally, films such as Hidden Figures and Glory exemplify the invaluable contributions that so many Black people have given our country. This is in spite of the trauma, abuse and hardships forced upon them.

Sexism – The workplace has long been a battlefield for women fighting for their equality and equity. Last year’s #MeToo movement ripped open the entertainment industry and started a wave of accountability for harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. Documentaries such as Confirmation, the story of Anita Hill, and 15 Minutes of Shame, the story of Monica Lewinsky, demonstrate our country’s approach to vilifying women who find themselves in scandals with powerful men that contribute to the culture of silence that surrounds this issue.

The documentary The Invisible War explores the systematic oppression, neglect and abuse that many women suffer while serving in the military. It’s easy to forget that the military is a workplace and is often more dangerous than the battlefield due to the level of power and isolation that can be present for female service members. Finally, films such as Bombshell and North Country demonstrate the fight women have had to wage to receive justice in male-dominated workplaces.

Homophobia – The LGBTQ+ community has had to walk a tough line full of minefields as they’ve pushed for the right to be themselves and be protected from discrimination on the job. From the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military law repealed in 2010 to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court that ensured the civil rights law included LGBTQ+ workers.

However, just like the other marginalized groups referenced in this article, the journey towards true equity is far from over. A documentary that can give you a bird’s eye view into how the trans community has been portrayed in and impacted by the media is Disclosure.

A film that highlights critical contributions made by people from this community while facing extreme prejudice includes Milk, the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California. The Imagination Game tells the story of Alan Turing, a cryptologist that made critical contributions that helped the Allies win the Second World War.

GLAAD has developed its own LGBTQ-version of the Bechdel Test, called the Vito Russo Test, in honor of GLAAD co-founder and film historian, Vito Russo. The test focuses on qualitative, not just quantitative, representation in film. Checking for films that pass this test is a great way to delve deeper into the experiences had and contributions of this diverse and many-faceted community.

Ageism – Though this topic hasn’t gotten the same amount of attention as the previous topics, it’s a critical issue for us to be educated on. In 2017, 18,000 age discrimination lawsuits were filed. Ageism has a double-sided challenge to it. On one hand, workplaces tend to buzz with negative commentary about millennials and generations following them into the workplace. While on the other hand, there’s an undercurrent of devaluing someone with too much tenure on the job. The idea that a person’s contribution is limited by their age is an outdated concept that needs to finally be retired.

Movies such as InternshipThe Intern and In Good Company explore how much talent and opportunity is missed when we assume capabilities, or lack thereof, due to age.

Immigration – The state of immigration in our country has become extremely volatile, and in many cases, tragic. A film such as A Better Life demonstrates the level of hard work and critical services that immigrant day laborers provide for us, often facing horrendous obstacles and very little acknowledgement. The film, A Day Without the Mexican, takes a satirical look at the consequences if all the Mexicans in California suddenly disappeared. And the film, The Big Sick, takes a look at the micro-aggressions and subtle racism many immigrants face as a routine part of coming to America.

With business becoming more and more global, it pays to broaden the talent pool beyond national borders. The Proposal provides a much lighter and fun look at employment and immigration laws to consider. While Gung Ho reminds us how much we can learn from other cultures and viewpoints.

Though this is far from a comprehensive list of the films available to us that can help evolve our understanding of the diverse workforce and customer base we all work with and support, it’s a solid start. There’s no need to wait for a corporate training program to begin developing your empathy and understanding of the many marginalized groups who may support your individual success and the success of the company or organization you work for.

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