The Hidden Barriers to Inclusion: Micro-Inequities in the Workplace

Organisations worldwide are increasingly striving to create diverse and inclusive workplaces, realising the importance and impact this has on the company’s success. However, we’re finding that businesses commonly overlook one crucial element in this pursuit that prevents them from achieving this goal. 

Without addressing micro-inequities, it doesn’t matter what you implement or how much you spend on trying to create a truly inclusive and supportive diverse workplace. 

What Are Micro-Inequities?

Micro-inequities are subtle, often unconscious, and unintentional behaviours or actions that communicate bias, prejudice, or disrespect to individuals in marginalized or underrepresented groups. 

They are the subtle, everyday slights, divisions and exclusions that many people say or do without a second thought. In fact, the perpetrator usually isn’t even aware of what they’ve done. Examples include unnecessarily including someone’s race or gender when referring to them, inside jokes or talking over someone in meetings. 

Yet, while the idea of a small, unconscious act can sound insignificant, the cumulative effect of these micro-inequities can be belittling, upsetting and infuriating for those who experience them. This can not only have a negative effect on the individual’s mental health but completely undermine all of the work done towards Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB), affecting the entire workplace culture. 

It can also be incredibly detrimental to the affected employee’s desire to stay with the company, let alone perform their role to their full potential. 

How to Address Micro-Inequities

Addressing micro-inequities is one of the hardest parts of implementing DEIB due to the person being unaware of the harm they’re doing. When their subconscious actions are brought to light it can even be upsetting for some, as they consciously hate the idea of upsetting someone or discriminating against their colleagues.


With this in mind group education and training should be given to all employees to raise awareness of the fact that micro-inequities exist in the first place. Without this knowledge, there’s no way for your employees to address and question their own behaviour.

Some inclusivity training courses including ours, which you can find out about here include modules that encourage participants to look at their own behaviours, though it’s important to get them to face up to their own internalised biases too. As this can be such a challenging and uncomfortable thing for some people we offer a separate training course that solely focuses on helping people uncover their unconscious biases and develop strategies to resolve them. 

Open Lines of Communication

It’s important to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing and discussing their experiences or concerns, without fear of repercussion or feeling like they are betraying a colleague. This should include both those who feel they have been a victim of a micro-inequity, but also those who have witnessed one occur. 

Sometimes people will prefer to report instances to their supervisor anonymously so it’s worth providing a formal method for this. 


The potential repercussions micro-inequities possess means that action needs to be taken when they do occur. The odd accidental slip-up may happen and, hopefully, the individual will see their error and use it to learn from. But, persistent or recurring offenders need to be addressed. 

The only way people stop committing micro-inequities is by increasing their self-awareness and adapting their behaviour, so it’s important to hold them accountable for their actions. This kind of commitment by the leadership team, demonstrating that there’s no place for micro-inequities within the organisation, is key to hammering home how damaging these small, seemingly innocuous, actions and behaviours can be.

If you’re serious about DEIB and would like to see how we can help, get in touch.

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