Before any analysis of the diversity of a workgroup, its internal conflict, or its productivity, a fundamental understanding of race, class, and gender as well as systemic racism and chauvinism must be understood. Additionally, by viewing the issue of workplace diversity at a macro levels an understanding of socialization, education, healthcare, and the role of company community and diversity projects can be brought into the conversation of discussing the possibility of more diverse workplaces in the future. This article gives a longitudinal perspective of the issue of workplace diversity and highlights the role social research plays in challenging and shaping business practices related to workplace diversity.
ACADEMIC TOPIC OVERVIEWS
Work & the Economy > Diversity in the Workplace
The idea of diversity in the workplace has become a priority for human resource managers and public relations managers in large corporations, particularly in the United States. A link to a corporation's diversity program or mission statement can be found on virtually every Fortune 500 company website. Since the early 1990s, companies have aggressively positioned themselves in the marketplace as an employer championing workplace diversity and a partner supporting local diverse communities. This drive toward diversity has been spurned by dramatic shifts in manufacturing jobs away from advance capitalism economies, a rise in service sector jobs, company branding, investor relations, and in some cases a sincere business ethic. Despite the public narrative on diversity presented by companies, growing diversity--and even hiring trends favoring women in America's service-intense workforce (Green, 2003)--the fact is that many of the problems related to diversity do not seem to be going away. White men still dominate high status jobs and substantial pay gaps persist between men and women, white Americans and minorities, and upper and lower classes. Diverse teams in organizations routinely encounter communication obstacles and in many instances are less productive than their homogeneous counterparts.
Many of the challenges of diversity remain beyond the reach of large companies. Historical systems of racism, chauvinism, and classism along with their inherent rationality have lost favor with the rise of new cosmopolitan social graces. Yet these systems of historical bias remain intact and interconnect with networks of enculturation, education, health care, and economy constructing a faceless systemic bias that constrains the rise of a highly skilled diverse workforce. The well-intentioned corporation may find that once it has addressed internal issues of hiring, training, and promotion bias that the diverse workforce they want to hire simply is not available.
To better understand many of the issues surrounding the diversity in the workplace discourse, it is necessary to be familiar with some of the basic concepts and dichotomies leveraged in the diversity debate. The primary categories utilized in research are race, class, and gender. These categories can be, and are often, extended. Other categories can include age, physical abilities (ableism), religion, and sexual orientation. Within companies and labor markets diversity is studied in proportional analysis of minority and majority group members and in integrative approaches that examine faultlines determined by reoccurring majority-minority splits across many categories (Kravitz, 2005). Thus, diversity can be measured separately at many levels in the workplace hierarchy including the field, shop floor, project team, management team, and board room. Disparities in fairness can be studied through phenomena such as wage gaps, job segregation, marginalized work, and glass ceilings. Finally, workplace culture and its relationship to proportional representation, pay structure, and authority allow researchers to analyze the ability of certain types of workers to have a voice in the workplace. With these approaches, the sociologist is able to go beyond just measuring the count of majority and minority employees in a workplace. The sociologist can measure upward mobility, fairness in pay, status in like jobs, the effectiveness of teams, and cultural changes. Diversity is a social benefit only if it encompasses fairness in opportunity, rewards, and proportional representation.
Race & Ethnicity
Race is a social construct that identifies groups of people by certain shared characteristics. More often than not these characteristics are phenotypical, that is, differences in color of skin, facial features, and hair texture. Race as a category does not reflect actual genotypical differences (gene differences). For this reason race may actually hide or obscure discrete ethnic groups with common historical origins (Marshall, 1998). This does not prevent sociologists from using race in their analysis of diversity. However, within modern sociology race is not viewed as reflective of a genetically like group. Rather it is assumed to be a category shaped by larger social values.
Gender & Sex
In her 1972 book Sex, Gender, and Society, Ann Oakley introduces the concept of gender to sociology. She defines sex as the the biological differences between male and female and gender as the parallel and unequal division between masculinity and femininity in society. Since Oakley's definition, the concept of gender has been extended to the division of labor in companies (Marshall, 1998). Sociologists use "gender" instead of "sex" because it is believed that differences in status and pay are attributable to socially constructed divisions (Smith, 1987). Gendering is socialization and one of the ways humans organize their lives. Researchers have utilized gender to explain job segregation, job marginalization, and the effect of proportionality and workplace culture.
When sociologists work with the category of social class they are working with a slippery concept. Unlike race or gender, people are able to change class. Class refers to a group of people who share common economic positions and opportunities in an economy. Given the relatively similar economic status, they are afforded like opportunities for education, health care, jobs, and other economic benefits. Generally speaking there is an upper, middle, and lower class. Within each of these levels there can be additional sub-classes. For example, in the upper class there can be the wealthy and the middle upper class. In the lower class there can be the working class, poor, and underclass. Where the economic line lies between classes in terms of wages is debated. What is not debated is that most people are unaware of their class. Despite what research data tells us, well over 90% of people consider themselves middle or working class (Heaton, 1987).
Sexual Orientation, Physical Ability, Age & Religion
Other categories are often considered when looking at workplace diversity. Among these are sexual orientation, physical ability, age, and religion. Sexual orientation may be toward the opposite sex (heterosexuality), same sex (homosexuality), both sexes (bisexuality), and neither (asexuality). Some sociologists believe sexuality to be genetic, while others label all types of sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, as socially constructed. Physical ability is also a category to be considered in diversity. Traditionally, disabilities have been used to discriminate against certain types of workers. Impairment is a socially constructed concept that extends beyond the actual limitations of the individual. Ableism is a bias against people with disabilities. The four categories of sexual orientation, physical ability, age, and religion appear less often in corporate diversity mission statements.
The Workplace: Corporations, Nonprofits & the Government
To understand the dynamics of workplace diversity it is necessary to understand the US workforce. Corporations and small businesses still provide the lion's share of jobs in the US economy. However, since the turn of the century nonprofits have employed approximately 10% of the workforce and growth in jobs in the nonprofit sector have been outstripping those of corporate America. During the Great Recession (2007-2009), the private sector lost jobs at a rate of 3.7% per year, while jobs in the nonprofit sector rose at a rate of 1.9%. The highest nonprofit job category is health services; nonprofit entities account for 57% of the health services jobs in America (Salamon, Sokolowski, & Geller, 2012). This is an important issue when considering diversity in the workplace. Though nonprofit organizations do tout their diversity programs, the truth is that many nonprofits and most nonprofit hospitals have religious affiliations. These affiliations contribute to workplace cultures that constrain upward mobility for people who do not share religious affiliations or perspectives on sexuality with their employer.
The government is another fast growing sector of the workforce. According to US Census data from 2011 and the 2010 American Community Survey, 15.3% of the civilian workforce works for federal, state, or local governments. The government as an employer is much more diverse than the corporations and nonprofits. An example of this can be found in the construction industry. Construction upper-tier jobs (construction manager, estimators, and managers/supervisors of trades) in 2010 were comprised of only 4% African Americans, while 12% of city building inspectors, the individuals who inspect the work of construction management, were African American (US Department of Labor & US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). When considering diversity in the workplace, companies often find themselves between two strong growing sectors of the workforce with very different approaches to diversity.
Fairness & Diversity
It is not enough simply to have proportional representation in the workplace. A poultry business can claim to be diverse because a majority of its workforce is Latino and half its workforce is female. But if all the managers and executives of the company are white men, then it would appear that the company is just taking advantage of inexpensive, unskilled labor concentrated in a local community. A hospital may claim to be diverse because of the international background of its physicians. However, if the cleaning staff is overwhelmingly African American women and the nurses and administrators are predominantly white, then it would not appear to provide a diverse workplace, despite the backgrounds of the resident physicians. A large law firm employing more female lawyers then males may claim to be diverse. Yet, if women attorneys at the firm only earn 70% of their male counterparts' wages, then the fairness of the firm's approach to diversity must be questioned. Job segregation, wage gaps, and job marginalization, not just personnel counts, tell the real story about diversity for sociologists.
Job segregation exists when a category of jobs is filled primarily by workers of a certain type. Additionally, segregation exists when companies have a two-tiered system wherein jobs are divided up into levels that offer unequal pay, responsibility, security, training, and mobility (Doeringer & Piore, 1971). Job segregation makes it very difficult to show discrimination when the types of work women or minorities do is so different from the types of work white men do. American courts only recognize discrimination for doing the same work and usually only for doing it at the same company. Since the late 1960s this type of discrimination within job-cells has been largely a non-factor in the gender wage gap (Blau, 1977; Groshen, 1991; McNulty, 1967) because the courts are unable to address issues such as why computer programmers, a job more likely to be filled by a man, get paid much more than elementary school teachers, an occupation more likely to be filled by women. Some researchers believe that job segregation may be the largest remaining part of the gender wage gap (Groshen, 1991).
A wage gap is a term that signifies differences in pay for like work based on race and gender. The National Committee on Pay Equity reported that in 2012, women were earning an average of 76.5% of what men were earning ("Wage Gap over Time," 2013). Despite claims that since the late twentieth century the overall wage gap has closed between men and women, many argue that the wage gap has only improved for white women. Table 1, derived from the US Current Population Survey (2011) and the National Committee on Pay Equity (2013), shows the change in wage gaps from 1975 and 2010 representing 35 years of improvement for white women. Today, the combination of being the "wrong" gender and the "wrong" race appear to have a double penalty (Greenman, & Xie, 2008). African Americans and Hispanics have lost ground to white women over the past decades. The wage gap between Hispanic women and white women is greater than the wage gap between white men and white women. The rise of service industries and the demise of manufacturing have benefited white women but not all women. Though a wage gap for like work does exist between men and women as well as white Americans and minorities in America, the primary reason for the overall wage gap lies in job segregation and job marginalization.
Table 1: Wage Information by Gender
Year White Men...
As companies are becoming more and more diverse its becoming more and more important for companies to understand and manage it. The people of different background, races, religion creates diverse workforce. There is an importance of having diverse workforce to provide better performance. There are perspectives of managing the diverse workforce, which require organization leaders and managers of being responsible of attaining better diverse workforce.
Diversity means differences, difference of age, sex, race, religion and culture etc. People with different demographic differences working in the organization makes diverse workforce. And it is becoming more important for the organizations to know about these differences and how to manage it. Diversity is also the common issue in the workforce environment, in some companies employees often get discriminated or misunderstood because of the diverse features. So it is important for the companies to manage the diversity workforce to value best performance. Most important aspect these days is to train the managers to handle the diverse workforce. What is the managers role in handling the diverse workforce?
GROWTH & IMPORTANCE OF HAVING DIVERSE WORKFORCE
Many organizations are engaging in activities to manage their employees of different genders, ages, race, sexual orientations, etc. When demographic diversity is valued, all employees, even the non-traditional (i.e., other than white males), are encouraged to participate fully and develop their unique skills and perspectives. a) GROWTH: Diversity is increasing everyday in
Diversity is increasing everyday in everyday in every organization; In America 1 in 4 Americans belongs to a minority or is foreign-born. Women, who currently make up less than half the work force, are expected to fill 65 percent of the jobs created during this decade. “Whether you are a business owner, executive, salesperson or customer- service professional, your success will increasingly depend on your ability to function in a culturally diverse marketplace,” (Profiting in America’s Multicultural Marketplace’ Lexington Books) Over the next decade, companies realize that they must have a diverse workforce and that each member of that workforce must truly embrace principles of diversity to realize the longevity, growth, and increased profits. Women, people of color, and immigrants will soon hold almost three- quarters of all jobs in this country (Jackson et al., 1992; Johnston, 1991). b)
Organizations are getting more concerned of developing the diverse workforce over the years to attain better result and competitiveness. Organizations have been advised to attract, develop, and retain males and females of all ages, skin colors, cultural backgrounds, and physical capacities to remain competitive (Cox and Blake, 1991). c)
Companies that accommodate the special needs of the demographically diverse workforce (by redefining the structure of the work day for those with childcare and/or eldercare responsibilities, or providing qualified assistants and/or apparatus for employees with disabilities) will become more appealing places to work and will thereby reduce absenteeism and turnover costs. They have also asserted that organizations that value differences will cultivate non-traditional markets, by dint of their apparent progressiveness and their ability to assess non-traditional preferences; and will enjoy greater creativity, problem solving, and responsiveness as a result of the wider range of viewpoints brought to bear on tasks. (Cox and Blake, (1991)
EFFICTIVINESS OF HAVING DIVERSITY IN WORKFORCE
Why should companies concern themselves with diversity? Many managers answered this question with the assertion that discrimination is wrong, both legally and morally. But today managers are voicing a second notion as well. A more diverse workforce, they say, will increase organizational effectiveness. It will lift morale, bring greater access to new segments of the marketplace, and enhance productivity. In short, they claim, diversity will be good for business. Research stated that the Canadian companies leading the way in the area of diversity management have discovered that by embracing the elements of ethnic and cultural diversity in their workforce they have enhanced their ability to understand and tap new markets, both within Canada and abroad. Research generated from a variety of fields predicts that important benefits will accrue from demographic heterogeneity in organizations by increasing the variance in perspectives and approaches to work that members of different identity groups can bring (e.g., Thomas and Ely, 1996).
IMPORTANCE OF MANAGING DIVERSITY
As the companies of today are getting more and more diverse, the need of managing the diverse workfare is increasing. All Countries specially USA and Canada are having more diverse workforce everyday. So it is becoming important for the companies manage the diversity to get better results out of employees. Research stated that Forward-thinking Canadian organizations have recognized that competing successfully in the new global marketplace requires more than the latest technology, most efficient production processes, or most innovative products. Canadian organizations’ competitive strength is increasingly contingent on human resources. Competing to win in the global economy will require an ability to attract, retain, motivate and develop high- potential employees of both genders from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The challenge facing today’s corporate leaders is to foster an organizational culture that values differences and maximizes the potential of all employees. In other words, leaders must learn to manage diversity.
PERSPECTIVES OF MANAGING DIVERSITY
Organizations have to follow the many guidelines to get diversity stick: v They have to focus on getting the best talent out of the person regardless of different age, sex and other demographic differences. v They have to develop career plans for all employees of the organization including the minorities. v They have to promote minorities to responsible positions in the workplace. v Make managers responsible to obtain diversity goals by managing its employees well. Managers also have to communicate well with all the employees and listen to their problems that are of different background or cultures. v They Build diversity into senior management. There are many aspects to impartially managing diversity as a manager and establishing the right attitude in the rest of the department. Here’s a look at some of the most important: a) Expectations Bias can lead you to expect less productive work or more “goofing off” from certain employees. Classroom studies have repeatedly shown that students live up-or down-to their teacher’s expectations. A similar pattern can be seen on the job. Expect the best from your employees, and give them the training and resources to provide it, and they’ll deliver. b) Labels: Words are powerful weapons, and as with any weapon, we should know whether they’re loaded or not. How you refer to people from diverse populations requires some conscious sensitivity. This involves more than not using crude references; it means using words preferred by the people themselves. Such words change over time, the way the term “Negro” gave way to “black” and “African American.” “Oriental” has been replaced by “Asian.” “Handicapped” has been replaced by “a person with a disability.” Individuals may have their own preferences as well. If you’re not sure how to refer to someone, ask. A moment’s awkwardness now will prevent misunderstanding and resentment later. c) Crowd control : Imagine yourself the only female in an unenlightened, all-male department. Day after day, coworkers started misbehaving or treating you differently. That’s just the start of a whole range of behavior, from the subtle to the blatant, that you could be subjected to. In a very short time you’d be ready to file against your boss and the company for allowing sexual harassment. Depending on how his or her coworkers behave, the employee may feel the same discouragement, anger, even fear. Not engaging in such behavior yourself isn’t enough; manager also have to eliminate jokes, name-calling, sabotage-whatever form discrimination may take-in others. Managers are responsible for establishing and maintaining the atmosphere of the department or else you’ll be held accountable. While managing diversity is a challenge, keep in mind that there is always enormous differences- even if we pretend there aren’t. Montaigne, the French essayist, said it this way: “There never were, in the world, two opinions alike, no more than two hairs, or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.”
Diversity in workforce is growing in all countries special USA, Canada and Europe. With having more diverse work environment organization can produce better performance. It is important for the companies to know diversity and how to handle the issues relating to it. Also the need of the diverse workforce is getting more not only because there are different people but also because they can produce better results with having different types of people working. Leaders in the organizations should learn diversity (differences of gender, age, sex and religion in their work environment and also to communicate will between them) and how to manage it effectively.
Filed Under: Business & Economics