Imagine a Black employee comes to you with complaints of their manager being discriminative against Black employees with natural afros. And then an LGBTQ+ employee complains fellow employees are being discriminative. But you’re not sure how to handle the 2 situations.

Why? Because you might not have a DEIB policy in place.

Several studies show the benefits of removing barriers to diversity in the workplace. A Gartner study found:

“75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets.”

And a study by McKinsey & Co found:

“companies whose boards are in the top quartile of gender diversity are 28% more likely than their peers to outperform financially.”

Even though there’s been a push towards creating more diverse and inclusive teams, barriers still remain. Here you’ll find 6 main barriers to diversity and tips on how to break them.

Let’s dive in.

1. Lack of diverse leadership

The lack of relatable role models in senior positions is one of the biggest barriers to employee inclusion.

A Women in the Workplace 2021 report by McKinsey shows:

The percentage of women of color in the C-suite is 4%, 62% for white men, 20% for white women, and 13% for men of color.

Because of the lack of diverse leaders, employees from underrepresented groups are less likely to feel comfortable or included.

Lack of diversity in leadership also keeps candidates from applying to work at your organization.

So, how can you create a diverse management team? Here are 4 ways:

  • Develop a bias-free recruitment strategy
  • Invest in DEI training for your existing employees and leaders
  • Get buy-in from key stakeholders make the process easier
  • Promote existing employees from underrepresented groups


2. Cultural misunderstandings

Cultural misunderstandings based on religion, ethnicity, generation, and language are common when you bring employees from diverse cultures together.

For example, patting someone on the back, or greeting someone with your left hand is offensive in some cultures. To prevent barriers to cultural diversity in your organization:

  • Create sensitivity training programs. This form of training will help your employees develop a sense of empathy towards each other and their different cultures.
  • Create communication and cultural events. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are an excellent resource for this. For example, have your ERGs alternate to host events like a lunch party where everyone can come with dishes from their traditional culture.
  • Implement diversity reporting and policy procedures to address cultural differences or issues.


3. Inequitable inclusion

The concept of an inclusive workplace may mean different things for different people. 

For example, equitable inclusion for transgender employees may mean including gender-neutral bathrooms or having a chance for them to add their pronouns on workplace platforms. 

And for Black employees, it may mean wearing a natural afro in the office.

For employees with a disability, it may mean increasing the screen sizes during work presentations.

To implement an equitable workplace, get feedback from your employees and pay attention to what will impact them.  But also focus on feedback from underrepresented employees who might feel like least included or supported.

We talked to Trey Ferro, CEO at  Spot Pet Insurance, to learn about steps they’ve taken to ensure equality for all. This is what he said:

“Oftentimes companies forget the accessibility factor of an inclusive workforce and end up focusing on only race and gender. Our non-discrimination workplace policy ensures impartial access to equipment, procedures, and systems. And, we seek to ensure that employees of all abilities are able to access the information and resources they need to perform their jobs.”


4. Communication problems

All co.s face problems with communication. And poor communication can lead to unconscious bias, unintentional offense, and mistrust.

As you increase diversity, you’ll also experience challenges communicating with international employees who have different time schedules and languages. You can easily cause unintentional offenses in this kind of situation.

To overcome language barriers in the workplace, ensure you:

  • Help your workers achieve common language proficiency through training
  • Research the local customs of your international employees or learn how to speak to them in their first language
  • Avoid jargon or cliches, and encourage clear language instead

The map below shows the phrase “make hay,” “peel the onion,” “drill down,” and others are at the top of the list of corporate cliches found in U.S.-based JDs. These might create communication barriers when hiring diverse candidates:

canva job ad cliches
source: Ongig


5. Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias means attitudes and judgments about certain groups, often based on inaccurate information.

This judging and stereotyping is a big barrier to workplace diversity. These unconscious biases are difficult to manage because, by nature, they happen unintentionally.

But, by educating all of your employees about the different types of unconscious bias, you’ll be making steps forward in your DEIB policy. And you’ll see an improvement in diversity when it comes to matters like promotions, onboarding, and using inclusive phrases in your job descriptions.


6. Lack of training

All of the above are caused by the biggest barrier: a lack of training designed for inclusion and diversity.

When done well, educating both your existing and future employees, will lead to a more inclusive and balanced workplace. This is because all employees will have learned to act with empathy towards each other, regardless of differences.

We talked to John Ross, CEO of  Test Prep Insight, to learn how he implemented a diversity and training program at his company. This is what he said:

“One thing that became immediately clear as we tried to adopt a more robust DEI policy this past year was that we had no internal expertise. So to get around this, we hired a DEI consultant. 

We found her on LinkedIn and paid her to assess our organization’s current efforts, make recommendations, and craft a new policy for us. Honestly, without outside input, it would have been impossible.”

Creating an inclusive workplace is a work in progress. It takes time (and commitment) to get it right.



Ongig’s mission is to create effective and inclusive job descriptions. Learning about the barriers to diversity above helps you understand areas where you might need improvement, including in your JDs. This is where Ongig can help! Please request a demo to learn more.



  1. Diversity wins, how inclusion matters by McKinsey
  2. Diversity and Inclusion: Build High Performing Teams by Gartner
  3. Women in the Workplace 2021 Report by McKinsey
  4. Trey Ferro, CEO at  Spot Pet Insurance 
  5. John Ross, CEO of  Test Prep Insight 

This is a guest post from Harrison Mbuiv, a freelance content writer for HR Tech and B2B SaaS brands. Harrison helps HR Tech and B2B SaaS companies create better content.

by in Diversity and Inclusion