As an editor, I see mistakes everywhere — forgotten prepositions, misplaced plurals, unfortunate word choices that pervert contextual meaning in a way that is not advantageous to the writer. And as an editor who covers diversity, I make a lot of connections. For instance, I tweeted out an article this week examining the difference between stress and pressure. This bit really got my attention:
“…the American Psychological Association estimates the cost of job stress to be around $300 billion per year. To help put that into perspective, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 122 million people employed full-time in the U.S. For the purposes of simple math, let’s say 150 million including part-time and freelancers. That’s $2,000 worth of job stress per person. Think about the implications that job stress is having on the business and the options the organization could employ to reduce workplace stress.”
I immediately thought, what would the price tag look like if they added in the stress of being a woman or an ethnic minority, or being a woman and an ethnic minority? Can you imagine? I’d feel safe guessing the amount of lost capital author Sharlyn Lauby estimates could easily double.
Most of us who make our living in offices and similar environments have had reason to internalize the phrase, “stress is a killer.” Especially these days with the amount of information coming at you resembling an avalanche; and the speed of business increasing to the point where vacation days become theoretical, and it’s a badge of honor to send emails on birthdays and holidays long after traditional business hours are over.
Now add to that unconscious bias, emotional labor, not feeling like you have complete control over your career because of gender politics, fear of revealing your true self because you have a disability or your sexual orientation isn’t accepted or understood. I could go on but I’m starting to feel stressed — and none of those things have anything to do with the high volume of work most of us are asked to get through on a daily basis.
I’ve one more thing to add to the list, and this is a big one: Women and minorities have to talk about these things in order to affect change — Oscars and the Academy anyone? — and they have to do it constantly. We have to explain why we deserve the same things that other groups are given without question; we have to petition and/or beg for the same benefits that other groups are given without question; and we have to show that we deserve the things that other groups are given without question, essentially proving that we’re as worthy as everyone else to get what they’ve gotten without expending any effort at all.
It’s exhausting. It’s stressful, and it’s sad. Even Lego and Barbie are moving with the times. They’re more inclusive and reaping the financial benefits, the customer engagement and the brand equity that go along with accepting that the world looks different and the power structure has shifting. The workplace has to catch up.
I learn new things all the time. Thankfully, many of these things make life easier. They improve my health and well-being, my interactions at work and how I interact with my family and friends. That’s the way it should be. Every horrible, ridiculous, diversity-related incident I’m subjected to teaches me something.
But when I think of the stress associated with learning these lessons, and the energy that goes into recovering from that stress? Well. Let’s just say if I could get back all the time and energy I’ve spent dealing with race, gender, bias, etc., it would be like being dropped headfirst into the fountain of youth.
We can all do better.