How to Manage Diversity Jobs
A great deal of confusion exists about what diversity is. Webster's Dictionary defines diversity as the condition of having distinct or unlike elements. In a workplace, this means the variety among people related to such factors as age, culture, education, employee status, family status, function, gender, national origin, physical appearance, race, regional origin, religion, sexual orientation, and thinking style. Though these differences themselves are undeniable, corporate culture and society at large often deny them by recognizing and valuing only a narrow range of differences. While these differences have often been ignored or devalued in the past, awareness of the role they play in organizational effectiveness has more recently put the spotlight on diversity.
Valuing diversity means acknowledging that other people, other races, other voices, and other cultures have as much integrity and as much claim on the world as you do. It is the recognition that there are other ways of seeing the world, solving problems, and working together.
Managing diversity jobs means promoting inclusion, creating an environment where all differences are valued, and in which each employee can develop to her or his full potential. From a business perspective, having diversity jobs is valuable because it means an organization gets the most from its employees. Companies that effectively manage diversity recognize that it is not enough to hire employees from underrepresented groups; they must also provide an environment where all employees are supported and valued.
After more than two decades, the impact of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs on the nation's work force is undeniable. Women and minorities were the first to dramatically alter the face of the economic mainstream, while gays, persons with disabilities and senior citizens followed not far behind. The result is a diverse American labor force representing a microcosm of our society - yet one that continues to struggle with its identity.
Diversity as a social condition is not new to the U.S. Founded by immigrants, the nation has always been an amalgamation of cultures and, as such, has undergone cyclical periods of discomfort as the world's melting pot. In the 1850s, for example, Chinese and Irish laborers were brought over to lay the tracks for the transcontinental railroad, which raised the ire of those who had arrived a hundred years earlier.
At the turn of the century, waves of immigrants arrived on American shores from Southern and Eastern Europe at a rate of a million a year. These unprecedented numbers caused American Federation of Labor president Samuel Gompers to complain in 1907: "Cheap labor, ignorant labor, takes our jobs and cuts our wages."
Today, men, women and families from Southeast Asia, Latin American and the Caribbean leave economic and political turmoil behind in hopes that America will provide a more secure future. And these immigrants face many of the same obstacles as their predecessors once they arrive.
Despite the similarities between current circumstances and those of earlier eras, a wide gulf exists that can be traced to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Focused in its early years on racial equality, the movement widened its scope to include equality based on gender, age, sexual orientation and disabilities. And as members of these various groups struggled to be recognized, they developed a new sense of pride in what made them distinctive. This sense of pride, this valuing of diversity, has led the nation to where it is today.