What is Wokewashing – And Why Is It Toxic?

Organizations planning to hire Millennial and Gen-Z employees may use tactics like faking “wokeness” to gain trust and prestige, so why do these organizations keep doing this, and what is it in the first place?

  • What is Wokewashing? 

Wokewashing is when an organization pretends to have progressive views on things like diversity and inclusion, or employee wellbeing but fails in practice to commit to these ideas. While this fake wokeness is starting to show up in advertising, it is also being adopted by organizations to encourage more young employees who care about issues to come work for them. If you’re an organization pretending to care about employee wellbeing while failing to put action behind it, or worse subtly fighting against it, there is a huge chance that you will be creating controversy and not the good kind.

  • Why Do Organizations Do it? 

 According to Cone Communications, 92% of people say they have a more positive image of an organization when the organization supports a social or environmental issue. Many organizations that have jumped on wokewashing are following a growing trend of advertising that appeals to a younger generation, specifically the Millenial and Gen-Z generation – the latter of which is just joining the workforce with many ideas and expectations on how organizations should operate. Many of the companies that claim to value diversity or sustainability aren’t taking the steps necessary to actually be “woke.”

  • Surface-Level Wokeness Isn’t Wokeness

 While many organizations think that wokewashing will give them a competitive advantage in the hiring process, especially in this difficult hiring market, the truth always eventually comes out. With the advent of social media and technology such as camera phones, employees have been able to be more candid and speak out about negative experiences they have had, or negative treatment they have received at these so-called “woke companies.” Organizations should be aware of this fact and proceed with caution when making decisions that affect employee wellbeing or company culture. Tokenizing people of color, or not promoting any person of color to higher levels in your organization, for example, won’t cut it anymore.

  • What Can Companies Do About It?

 Organizations have to be willing to assess if they are putting enough effort into the woke causes they support, or the diversity and inclusion initiatives that they claim to promote. Prioritizing accountability, and recognizing where your company may have missed the mark is the first step. Allowing more money for diversity training, and making resources available to help employees drive the company culture is another. Partnering with an organization like Renewables Forward that gives employers access to a diversity and inclusion handbook is also a step in the right direction. 

  • Final Thoughts

Transparency, accountability, and enforcement are just some of the things that should be on a company action plan in the 21st century. As the younger generation continues to push for more expectations on employee wellbeing, fake wokeness could impact organizations more than staying silent. If your organization is going to proceed with supporting and promoting issues like diversity and sustainability you better be able to have some action behind it. For more, check out  Hiring in the 21st Century and Diversity in the Workplace.