Why Diversity Matters
I am immediately reminded of the ancient adage, “Nothing is so sure as change!” As antiquated as this concept may strike us, the notion has real and immediate relevance to today’s business communities. Consider the following facts: The traditional hierarchical, large, white male-dominated corporate structure is not the norm any longer. Now women comprise 52% of the workforce. Additionally, immigrants account for the largest part of US population increase. There are more people older than sixty-five years than there are teenagers, and one in four people is Asian American, Hispanic or African American. It is asserted that ten percent of our population is either gay or lesbian.
A common misunderstanding concerning the concept of diversity in the workplace is that it is, simply, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and/or Affirmative Action (AA) with a new name. While this is not true, AA, EEO and Diversity efforts do not mutually exclude one another. Keep in mind that, broadly speaking, AA and EEO serves social ends. Diversity management serves economic purposes, and differs in scope. EEO and AA tended to deny the differences among people. Diversity management on the other hand, strives for success. This success is based not so much on the idea of assimilation, but more on inclusion of people, with all of their wonderful differences.
The goal of Diversity management is to nurture and affirm fresh perspectives and approaches to situations that different workers bring with them to the workplace. It may be helpful to consider EEO and AA, along with Diversity management, as two sides of the same coin. With the first, being “different” has traditionally been viewed as a mark of inferiority, while the later approach allows leaders to realize that “different” is not “inferior,” but is normal and welcomed. Also, where “equal rights” meant that we all were treated the same, now it has come to approach the concept of treating each and every one of us fairly. EEO and AA have tended to discount differences among people; Diversity management clearly values differences and turns them into advantages for not only companies’ “bottom line,” but for the wholeness and well being of individuals and groups.
The primary goal of Diversity management is to have productivity and profitability thrive within businesses and organizations. Remember, the recent style of leadership is driven by humanistic concerns, rather than those legal and dogmatic. This transitional approach to out-dated EEO and AA procedures will help to ensure productivity and profit all around. Do you know that every minute of every single working day someone files a discrimination charge? Local, State and Federal laws prohibit discrimination based upon factors such as religion, sex and race. In the event that a business is found guilty, it must foot the bill for all attorney fees, court costs, damages and more. Plaintiffs win many millions of dollars annually as a result of discrimination charges. The area of financial burden will be lessened substantially when an environment of Diversity management is comfortably established. It is not in our best interests to fear discrimination suits and expect trouble. In spite of the likelihood that we, as individuals and corporate communities, may feel the uncomfortable tug against change, by learning new perspectives, which result from this wider range of employees, we all will reap substantial rewards.
A lot of Diversity management is solid, good common sense. We can act positively, and treat each person fairly. Employees are a company’s strength. Be open to and accepting of individuals’ perspectives and capabilities. We are all, after all, in the business of providing better service to our customers and clients, within and around our company’s.