Saturday, February 22, 2014

10 Measures of Diversity Working in Society and in the Workplace

Diversity is a value that aims to promote peaceful accord with everyone despite differences in thoughts, attitudes, cultural background, lifestyles, gender, race, among other variables. In an ideal situation in any context, diversity is seen to be working when each member accepts, tolerates and respects one another.

Diversity in Society
One meaningful academic definition of diversity was conceptualized by a diverse group of University of Oregon students:
  • 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.
According to Wikipedia, the phrase cultural diversity can also refer to having different cultures respect each other's differences. The phrase "cultural diversity" is also sometimes used to mean the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole.

However, with wars, violence, crimes of all sorts having accompanied human society since time immemorial, diversity in society is clearly vulnerable.

One strong opinion against diversity states that it will never work. According to an opinion writer, Brett Stevens, the problem with diversity is that instead of culture, it chooses anti-culture, or the culture of having no culture. A person in a culture afflicted with diversity faces an ugly choice: they can either join the culture of non-culture and give up on their own values, or they can retain their own values and be socially ostracized or treated as a stereotype. Read more

Stevens also wrote that ultimately, with too much tolerance and government regulations, diversity leads to criminality, corruption and other third-world ills.

Diversity in the Workplace
Ealier in this year, a news article by Forbes reported about what The Economic Intelligence Unit had gathered from its global survey of 200+ human resources (HR) executives worldwide as an emerging definition of workforce diversity, which goes beyond avoiding race, ethnicity and gender discrimination, or even complying with the rules.

The article states that the new understanding of diversity that has emerged is this: Diversity now encompasses values, meaning what motivates someone to join a company, embody organizational passions, and be productive for a long time. It turns out that diversity means giving people the space to work differently. Read more here

According to acclaimed social psychologist Dr. Claude Steele, one of the major barriers holding back the achievement of Blacks, women and other underrepresented groups is a phenomenon he calls “stereotype threat,” the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype. Call it subconscious self-handicapping. Read more here

Stereotyping leads to discrimination that can have deadly consequences. Recall the story of Trayvon Martin. An opinion article explains it was being stereotyped as a criminal element that led to Trayvon's fatal shooting. See

In an artcle by Huffington Post, it was reported that a new survey by the Greatheart Leader Labs in Seattle found that the gaps in diversity stemmed from one issue, study authors concluded -- a failure to communicate. Read here

How to Keep Diversity Working
In one scholarly article, “The Effects of Diversity On Business Performance: Report of the Diversity Research Network,” it is noted that: When HR practices support the creation of a workforce that has the skills needed to turn diversity into an advantage, diversity is more likely to lead to positive performance outcomes.
The article also states that firm-wide, diversity-sensitive managerial strategies, human resource policies, and organizational cultures are important and valuable. The research team summarized their findings, thus: There is a need to go beyond the business case for diversity as a number of different aspects of the organizational context and some group processes moderated diversity-performance relationships. Read more

One more recent study that was published online, “Getting diversity at work to work: What we know and what we still don't know” presents what the researchers - Harrison and Klein (2007) suggest as diversity not just being one thing, but three things, namely:
  • Diversity as separation reflects that diversity might trigger social categorization processes;
  • diversity as variety implies that diversity might facilitate innovation, learning and decision-making;
  • diversity as disparity recognizes that diversity is often associated with status differences.
The above study suggests there is no single approach to making diversity work, hence, correlations between diversity practices and work outcomes vary, but in all the research it presents, one thing is clear: diversity needs to be managed well in order to gain benefits both for the company and its employees.

Clearly, diversity is such a complex matter, and it is not easy to measure the success of diversity initiatives and/or programs. However, work organizations would do well to establish a list, of diversity indicators or measures, to assist them, such as the following.

Measures of Diversity Working in the Workplace
1. Employee Satisfaction
2. Customer Satisfaction
3. Workforce Demographics
4. Compensation Analysis
5. Retention
6. Turnover
7. Absenteeism
8. Proportion of Management Positions held by Women/Minorities/Persons with Disabilities
9. Upward Mobility
10. Diversity Training Attendance

The first two diversity measures focus on the outcomes of diversity programs, while the rest of the indicators are quantitative measurements.

Finally, it can be said that the extent to which there is less violence, crimes, unemployment in a diverse community or society indicates the level of diversity at work. The extent to which diverse businesses, with diverse workforce thrive in a given diverse community and contribute to its economic progress also indicates the degree to which diversity is working successfully.

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