All people are different. Price (2004) states that they vary in their gender, culture, race, social and psychological characteristics. Our attitude towards these differences can be positive as well as negative; it depends usually upon individual perspectives and prejudices and sometimes even on influence of friends, accountancies and colleagues. There is a tendency to form like-minded groups, to recruit people like themselves. This may seem natural or normal and often goes unquestioned - but it is unfair. The consequences can be seen in a lack of opportunity for women, ethnic minorities, and disabled, the middle-aged and other disadvantaged sections of the community.
People are the key assets of a business, according to Price (2004) so it is important to realise the maximum benefit from their human capital. True competitive advantage requires the best from everyone, without restrictions; it demands a prejudice-free attitude towards actual and potential employees. It requires diversity.
So, what is diversity?
Diversity, according to the Webster College Dictionary (in Grant and Kleiner 1997), is defined as [a] quality, state, fact, of instance of being diverse; different. The traditional definition of diversity is focused on gender and racial differences. In today’s terms d iversity also includes age, sexual preferences and disabilities; it could be defined by an individuals’ different personal and corporate background, education, job function, tenure with the organisation, exempt or non-exempt status, and management or non- management. In the workplace today not only does diversity imply difference in people based on their identification with various groups, but it is also a process of acknowledging differences through action.
In accordance to ASUO Multicultural Advocate (1999), the concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is 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.
The Management of diversity goes beyond equal opportunities (Price 2004 p. 450). Instead of just allowing a greater range of people the opportunity to “fit in”, or be an honorary “large, white male”, the concept of diversity embraces the belief that people should be valued for their differences and variety. The aim of diversity is actually to enrich an organisations’ human capital. Equal opportunity focuses on different disadvantaged groups and management of diversity is about individuals.
Price (2004) also communicates that the pitfalls in the process are evident. E.g. a 1995 report (Targeting Potential Discrimination) produced by the UK Equal Opportunities Commission detailed findings from 2000 companies that showed that over two-thirds didn’t collect information about the gender and ethnicity of their employees. Auditing HR systems is also problematic.
Daniels and Macdonald (2005) state, another problem is in lack of understanding about each other (especially racial groups) as a result of lack of knowledge. People tend to resist everything they don’t know or don’t understand.
However, Price (2004) is of the opinion that the main difficulties arise from cost and lack of commitment, exemplified by “tokenism”, he underlines: “We have done as much as we need to - we have a disabled person in the office.” “Paternalism” is a related attitude, where discriminatory decisions are taken for the so-called “benefit” of particular groups, as it is illustrated in the case of American Cyanamid:
Trying to eliminate any liability for toxic damage to unborn children, American Cyanamid decided in January 1978 to remove all women of child bearing age from contact with chemical which, in the company opinion, carried a risk. The company banned all women aged between 16 and 50 from production areas at two plants. The only exception was for women who could prove they had been surgically sterilized or accepted such sterilization at the company’s expense. 5 women accepted this offer. The other women were offered lower-paid jobs. 13 women and a union representative took legal action that was settled out of court.
- Quote paper
- Iryna Shakhray (Author), 2008, Managing Diversity, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/120354