DEFINING DIVERSITY: THE EVOLUTION OF DIVERSITY by Camille Kapoor 1. INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS DIVERSITY? 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 ability, 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 within each individual (cited from http://gladstone. uoregon. edu/~asuomca/diversityinit/definition. html). 2. PURPOSE OF THE PAPER This research paper was conducted to see the evolution of diversity definition across the industry, specifically in hospitality industry.
This qualitative research use Diversity Task Force study which conducted in 2001 to confirm the definition of diversity, whereby diversity can be concluded as “all characteristics and experiences that define each of us as individuals” (Kapoor, 2011). On top of that, the purpose of this study is: • to illustrate the emergence of diversity concept into management discussions, • to discuss how the definition of diversity has broadened over time to become more inclusive, • to present current concerns with a broad-based diversity definition, • to put forth researcher’s own definition of diversity (Kapoor, 2011) . DISCUSSION ON FINDINGS 3. 1 The Emergence of Diversity Concept into Management Discussions Based on the researcher’s findings, the entrance of diversity concept into management discussions was traced as early as 1978 based on Supreme Court Case of Regents of Universiy of California v. Bakke. In 1987, report by Hudson Institute known as Workforce 2000 stated that women, blacks, Hispanics and immigrants would make up 85 percent of new job seekers by the year 2000.
In addition, this study also pointed out, “more and more individuals are likely to work with people who are demographically different from them in terms of age, gender, race and ethnicity”. The formulation of 1964 Civil Rights Acts, Executive Order 11246 and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1965 made it illegal for companies to discriminate in the hiring or managing employees on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.
It is also requires organization to take affirmative action to overcome past patterns of discrimination. In the following year, the protected classes expanded to include white women, veterans, people over the age of 40 and people with physical or mental disabilities. In 1990’s, researchers began promoting the “business case” for diversity; as part of the reaction of observation that more diverse workforce can enhance the overall business.
Then, managing diversity become one of the economic interest and companies were warned that a failure to effectively manage their diverse workforce would lead to poor performance or even place the company’s image at risk. In late 1990s, the recognition that diversity is a reality can be seen and that a company’s successes rely on their ability to effectively manage their workforce diversity. Managing diversity focuses on understanding people as individuals, rather than making assumptions about the needs and potential of individuals based on whether that person is of a specific gender or ethnic group.
Managing diversity could also be understood as an equality strategy because it claimed to be able to recognize employee’s differences, while ensuring “that policies and procedures did not treat them inequitably”. The above emergence on diversity concept further confirmed by Hanappi-Egger and Ukur (2011) in below summary table of National forms of diversity management. This research summarizes the evolution or evolvement of diversity management cross the world.
Table 1: National Forms of Diversity Management |Mobility of diversity management across borders | |Concept |Affirmative action |Equal Employment |Diversity management |Business case for diversity | | | |Opportunities | |management | |Year of Inception Mid 1960s and early 1980s |Mid 1970s to early 1990s |1983 to 1990s |1990 | |Countries that adopted |USA 1961 |USA, Canada, UK, Australia, |1983-1990 in the US |1990-USA | | |South Africa 1998 |South Africa |1997 in the UK |2004-Australia | | |Kenya 2007 | |1998 in the South Africa | | | | | |1999 in Australia | | | | | |2000 in Europe | | | | | |2003 in Asia | | |Intended beneficiaries |Blacks, women, Hispanics, |Women, racial minorities, |White able-bodied males, |Corporate organizations | | |native Americans, Asians |persons with disabilities, |also non-traditional | | | | |aboriginal people |employees | | |Focus |Numerical representation, |Barrier elimination, |Learning about others i. |Business and strategic | | |hiring compliance |numerical representation, |those who are different |advantage | | | |reporting | | | |Cultural value |Remedy past wrongs |Egalitarianism, meritocracy |Inclusiveness, respect for |Business advantage | | | | |difference | | |Intended value |Representative workforce at |Fair employment policies and|Awareness of difference; |Business profits | | |all levels; access to |practices; improved |improved interpersonal and | | | |employment for disadvantaged|representation; supportive |intergroup communication; | | | |groups |climate |human relations, skills; | | | | | |attitude change | |
Source: Adopted from Hanappi-Egger and Ukur (2011); data obtained partly from Kelly/Dobbin (1998) and Agocs/Burr (1996) 3. 2 How the Definition of Diversity Broadened Over Time According to this research, there were two general approaches to understand workforce diversity being developed in mid-2000s as below: • Narrow View – define diversity only as it related to equal employment opportunity and affirmative action; focusing on recruiting and hiring a group of people of particular races, genders or cultures. • Broad View – define diversity as a concept which includes every way in which people can differ; attempts to maximizing the potential of all employees in direct benefit to the organization.
However, the above definition of diversity further expanded when Diversity Task Force conducted a study in 2001 which emphasize on: • The importance of including secondary dimensions of an individual into the diversity definition such as communication style, work style, organizational role/level, economic status, and geographic origin; besides only focusing on primary dimensions such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation. • The focus on people with non-visible differences such as sexual orientation. However, the focus is more on how their thinking styles, problem solving approaches, experiences, competencies, work habits, and management style can contribute to diversity evolution. • The importance to include diversity dimensions which relevant to workplace such as educational background, work experience, job status, tenure, learning style, and personality type. • The differences even within the particular group.
All the above evolution in diversity definition further supported and expanded in The Four Layers of Diversity dimensions by Gardenswartz and Rowe (2003). Compared to Narrow View and Board View approached established in mid-2000s to define diversity, The Four Layers of Diversity explained below dimensions in defining diversity: • Personality – deals with the stable set of characteristics that establishes ones identity • Internal Dimension – represents characteristics that strongly influence people’s attitude, perception and expectations of others. These include factors such as age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or ethnicity • External Dimension – represents personal traits that we can exert control or influence over.
They include factors such as income, personal and recreational habits, religion, education, work experience, appearance, marital status and geographical location • Organizational Dimension – represents factors pertaining to the organization itself and includes work field, division or unit, seniority, union affiliation, management status and functional level. (Hanappi-Egger and Ukur, 2011) 3. 3 Current Concerns With a Broad-based Diversity Definition This research also highlights some concerns pertaining to broad-based diversity definition in current environment: • Difficulty to implement diversity initiatives lead to dissatisfaction among employees in the organization. Broad definitions of diversity can “obscure issues of intergroup inequality” because the management put more focus on “managing individual differences that might contaminate intergroup relations. • Promotions on diversity programs is yet to prove its effectiveness; especially in diversity training.
The result of the research conducted before were still ambiguous in its conclusions. • Initial intention of the management to adopt a more broadly defined approach to diversity management become a problem when employee perceive it as management is dealing with individual differences rather than equity. • The “upbeat naivety” of the diversity paradigm may fail to acknowledge past discrimination and therefore may prevent organizations from preventing future discrimination and racism stated that the organization should acknowledge the cultural and social diversity of where the organization exists; so that the management able to develop proper and suitable diversity initiatives. 4.
Researcher’s Own Definition of Diversity as Conclusion Based on the study conducted, the researcher concludes that the finding is able to confirm the definition of diversity as per The Diversity Task Force’s definition that is “all characteristics and experiences that define each of us as individuals”. However, the researcher has highlighted some concerns with broad definition of diversity; that discrimination might appear unintentionally as a result of primary and secondary dimensions of diversity. Further, it is also emphasized the importance of recognizing that individuals with similar primary dimensions may have very different secondary dimensions.