Organizational Diversity & Discrimination


Organizational Diversity & Discrimination

Diversity is an important factor that contributes to the survival of any organization. Diversity includes recognizing, respecting, understanding, and accepting each others individual differences. Traditional diversity was stereo typed with two main categories of race and gender. Today's diversity is comprises with several dimensions: race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, gender, political belief, religious beliefs, or other ideologies. As such diversity is defined as “the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual”1  . As more and more companies expand, diversity in now seen as a business imperative, companies are now realizing the importance of having a rich mix of employees with various experiences and perspectives. Diversity affects the culture and socialization within an organization, as with the evolution of demographical changes in our country. Organizations will have to mirror this change, and become educated and trained on how to accept and adapt in this new environment.  We will discuss in this paper examples of literature reviews that compare and contrast the traditional vs. new diversity with facts and statistical information. Also we will inform you on ways to have a diverse work place for example, training session and workshops. Which will lead us to the conclusion where we discuss benefits to having a diverse work place for example, it is a major competitive advantages and it keeps employee moral high. 

Traditional Diversity

The United States has always been a melting pot of different cultures; however, middle aged Caucasian males dominated the management level in corporate American. Woman and minorities rarely made it to the management level. As time passed and the population continued to grow, there was a greater need of change. People demanded the right for employment no matter what there differences were from the Caucasian male. Several laws came into place to promote the changes desired by the people.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Employers were not allowed to deny employment to any person because of the color of their skin, the religion that they practiced, their gender or for the country in which they were born. In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was developed and put into place. It protected individuals who are 40 years of age or older. After the act was adopted, an employer was no longer allowed to deny a person 40 years of age or older a promotion or employment due solely due to their age. In 1972 affirmative action became an issue for employers. Affirmative action was the positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education and business. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 sections 501 and 505, prohibited discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who worked in the federal government. Later, the Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), prohibited employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local government. No employer was allowed to deny any person applying for employment a position or an employee with a disability a promotion due solely to their disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these laws still today. The created laws provided persons of different backgrounds the opportunity to work together and create a diverse workplace.

“Diversity refers to human qualities that are different from our own and those of groups to which we belong; but that are manifested in other individuals and groups. Dimensions of diversity include but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience and job classification (FHDA, 2007).”

Though people were not denied employment because of their race, religious beliefs or national origin, they were still denied deserved promotions or prestigious positions that would place them in the public eye such as news reporters or a television spokesperson. They would not be given the opportunity to earn as much money as their Caucasian male counterpart. This is still a struggle for some employees today. However, there are several law suites in place to keep employers honest.

Today's Diversity

Today's corporate leaders have realized having an effective work place requires a commitment to increase mutual respect and appreciation among employees. It has been proven that organizations that pursue diversity initiatives regularly outperform the S&P500.  Today's workforce is more diverse than ever.  Corporate America has given diversity a new definition, which includes a variety of categories  such as ethnicity, personality, religion and political beliefs, birth place, education, disability, performance, sexual orientation marital and parental status.  These new categories eliminated the traditional stereo types of just race and gender, and educated us on the individual's uniqueness and recognize individual's differences.   Today's diversity is also exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. (website)

Having different categories of diversity in the work place, we feel it is a major contributor and adds plenty of value to the overall productivity and efficiency of the   organization. Ethnicity is not exclusively racial, or cultural, or religious, or even political. At its core it is probably psychological. It is whatever separates us from them; it is a shared sense of vulnerability, of shared fear, and at its best, of shared aspiration. It is also a safe harbor for collective hatreds. (Olin Robison) 2

Having different ethnic backgrounds and different socioeconomic conditions allow different cultures to demonstrate there way of accomplishing a task in which they are a master at. Then eventually overtime the different ethnic backgrounds can teach other ethnic backgrounds so the in time they will have mastery skills at accomplishing the task as well.  

The word personality has many interpretations.  It means the sum of the characteristics which make up physical and mental being, including appearance, manners, habits, tastes and moral character. You can also understand it to be the characteristics that distinguish one person from another (this is equivalent to individuality). From another view point it means it can be the capacity for having mental states, possessing a stream of consciousness   3.

The way in which you interpret the definition of personality is a personal preference but having a variety of personality's in corporate America we feel is an essential element and is very conducive to the work environment.  Personalities allows for different views and opinions on the operations of the company. Also different personalities allow the work atmosphere to be an enjoyable environment to work in.   Religious belief informs fellow associates on different norms, beliefs, values and customs that can help over come conflicts the may arise between employees.  

Education is a key factor for the future and the growth of any organization. Having well educated employees within a corporation allows the company's standards to be at a paramount level. Having education provides an individual the ability to progress within the organization. Education enhances the overall business.   

Different sexual orientations within the work environment give room for different perspective on tasks.  Employing individuals with disabilities provide alternatives to overcome obstacles to accomplish a task.  Having alternatives and displaying information in other ways is very important and is beneficial to the whole company.

Literature Review

Research on diversity has lagged behind practice for the most part; as many companies fail to provide any concrete statistical data on the effects that diversity has on the organization. However what is impressive is that most organizations acknowledge that diversity does affect the culture, bottom line, work cohesiveness, and the overall functioning of an organization. Many companies are now trying to be more sensitive to the multicultural composition and distinct makeup of their employee base. Some places have entire departments and segments of their recruiting teams dedicated solely to creating, promoting, and managing diversity and diversity issues.  Although, many companies attempt to ameliorate the issue of having predominantly a diverse workforce on hand, the reports on discrimination remain consistent throughout the years (see table below). The table highlights that even with organizations are hiring a more diverse workforce and offering trainings on diversity, the number of discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), doesn't reflect the outcome that organizations hoped to see.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Over the years diversity has deemed to be an important fact for organizations. Companies have come to realize that a diverse work force helps businesses operate better by stimulating new ideas and attracting a more diverse customer base. This country is much diversified, and organizations have come to realize the importance of having a staff that mirrors their environment, especially if that organization competes in the global market.  The effects of diversity have attached more advantages that disadvantages. According to author D. Thomas, he stated that “recent studies of factors that moderate the relationship between cultural diversity and work group effectiveness have begun to make some sense of these findings, suggesting that when group members share common goals and values, cultural diversity leads to more beneficial outcomes” (2001). Employees get a sense of cohesiveness when they can comfortably coexist and relate to each other when they share some common characteristics. In a research conducted by D. Monk, meticulously explored the history of diversity within four Fortune 500 companies, his research concluded that gender and racial diversity have both positive and negative impacts on the performance of these organization, however the bottom line was that “human-resource executives should adopt a "more nuanced view" of diversity and develop management practices that promote communication and collaboration among diverse employees” (2007). He further implied that organizations that invest their resources in taking advantage of the opportunities that diversity offers should surpass those that fail to make such investments.

What benefits does an organization have when they take diversity into consideration when they are hiring? S. Shepard (2001), he analyzed and evaluated a prior research on The effects of Diversity on Business Performance, published in the Human Resource Management Journal in 2003 by nine business professors at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and the University of California at Berkeley. The survey included 121 Human Resource professionals for Fortune 1000 companies and companies on the Fortune magazines list of “100 Top Companies to Work force” and measured the extent of corporate diversity and reveals that “diversity awareness directly contributes to business success.” He reported statistics that shows the correlation between diversity and an organization:

  1. 79 percent report that diversity education improves corporate culture
  2. 77 percent say it improves recruitment of new employees
  3. 52 percent say it improves client relationships
  4. 91 percent of HR executives say that diversity awareness helps their organization keep a competitive advantage
  5. 58 percent say awareness decreases interpersonal conflict
  6. 59 percent say it increases creativity
  7. 52 percent say it increases productivity

These figures reflect the importance and criticalness that diversity has on organizations. Of course, there are other benefits to having a diverse organization, for instance there is the fact that it provides equal opportunity of individuals who wishes to apply, and the best candidate should fill the position. A decision to hire or non-hiring of an individual should not solely be based on any one of the discriminatory factors such as age, sex, religion, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual preferences and so on. Whatever person is hired, and enters the work environment, it should be a comfortable transition. If employees are content in their work environment, management and consumers are benefiting from which may result in increase productivity and returns. Additionally a diverse or a diverse-aware workplace will increase the likelihood of a  decreased staff turnover ratio, decreased likelihood of discrimination lawsuits and increased opportunity, let's face it, being good at diversity means that there are more opportunities for global partnerships and that is the direction that most  business would like to trod.

Diversity has many advantages surrounding it; however there are a few problems associated with it, if it not handled correctly. F.R. Leech (1994) stated that is as a result of the “deep ambivalence toward its disreputable twin, affirmative action. Tensions related to this issue run like a fault line beneath the diversity movement. In any case, diversity management has acquired the affirmative-action stigma”. In other words, many organizations are concerned that are transitioning to a more diverse workforce are being looked at as passing over the more qualified individual in order to allow minorities within the organization. And, when that happens, conflict may occur resulting in disjointed work environment, which could negatively affect the profit of an organization.  Those management challenges can be handled in a number of ways, such as workshops and informal meetings, but if management doesn't take care of these issues, they can end up with individuals who feel demographically isolated," ultimately leading to higher turnover and lower productivity.  Overall, besides the little glitches we can safely state that a diversified workforce offers more benefits than not, diversity can bring creativity and new ideas to groups and a company that has a diverse workforce will reap the fruits of success. Diversity is critical to the bottom line of organizations, in fact the more diverse workforces fared two-times better than other businesses (S. Shepard, 2001).

Workplace Diversity

The world's increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds than ever before. Supporting and managing diversity in the workplace is an important part of creating a positive work environment. Â The key outcome for workforce diversity training programs is promoting an atmosphere of inclusion and respect within your organization (Workplace Answers, nd). Companies that create and sustain a culture of diversity and inclusion will enjoy a significant competitive advantage in the next decade. As the labor pool becomes increasingly diverse, the winners will be companies that recruit and develop the best talent from all cultures (Goliath, 2004). 

Implementing a Diversity Program

There are many organizations that offer diversity training programs for both large and small businesses. However, the implementation of diversity should first begin with human resource and management.  Total buy-in from both human resource and management, will determine the success of the program.  Employees will be more receptive of the program if human resource and management reflect and practice diversity.  Implementing a diversity program would be effortless if the entire organizations would understand regardless of cultural differences, there are some constants:

  1. Every person appreciates being treated with respect.
  2. Even those who come from cultures noted for self-sacrifice and community thinking, have a sense of self-value and appreciate being treated as individuals.
  3. Every person appreciates feeling as if their opinion matters to you.
  4. Everyone appreciates an opportunity to explain themselves, so be sure to allow enough time to let people "get things off their chests."
  5. Every person from every culture understands the basic concept of fairness: that people should be treated consistently according to known rules or standards, based upon things that were within their power to control.
  6. Every employee comes to an interview with a certain amount of trepidation and uncertainty and will appreciate whatever you can do to reassure them that they will at least be treated fairly (Employment Law Advisors, nd).