What is Diversity?
Diversity describes the similarities and differences that people have. Diversity simply refers to human characteristics that make people different from one another. In the last few years, the changing composition of the organizational work force (diversity) has had dramatic effects on the study and application of management and organizational behavior. Now organizations are beginning to realize that diversity is not just something to deal with, but instead a reality to build on to make a stronger, more competitive enterprise.
Diversity has traditionally emphasized the differences among people in a group or organization. Now that the demographic projections of a few years ago have become a reality the workforce is older and has an increasing percentage of women and racial/ethnic minorities, there is an emerging perspective on diversity as an all-inclusive mixture of differences and similarities.
Reasons for the Emergence of Diversity
A major reason for the emergence of diversity as an important challenge is changing demographics. Older workers, women, minorities, and those with more education are now entering the workforce in record number. The competition of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce is and will be much different from that of the past.
Another pragmatic reason for emergence diversity in today’s organizations stems from legislation and lawsuits. These laws, along with lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits, have put teeth into diversity. The political and legal systems have compelled organization to hire more broadly and to provide equal opportunity for all employees.
Still another reason for the importance and emergence of diversity to organization is the realization that diversity can help them meet the competitive pressures they currently face. Organizations valuing diversity end up with a more talented and capable workforce than those that do not take such a proactive, affirmative action approach.
Moreover, companies that gain a reputation for “celebrating diversity” are more likely to attract best employees regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. The most talented and qualified people will feel that opportunities are better with these firms than with others. In other words, diversity can provide an organization with competitive advantage.
Company performance is measured in three different ways: Productivity, return on equity, and market performance. Results demonstrated that diversity not only adds value but, in the proper context, also contributes to a firm’s competitive advantage. There is growing practical evidence that diversity leads to innovation and often breakthrough competitive advantages.
A final major reason for the emerging of diversity is that more and more organizations are entering the international arena. A natural by-product of going international is increased diversity, in this case cultural diversity. If domestic organizations have and promote diversity, then, as they expand globally, they will be accustomed to working with people with people who have different cultures, customs, social norms, and mores. The international arena, thus, is not a threatening place for diverse firms, a fact that is particularly important because of the major role that international operations and sales will play in the growth, and even survival, of companies in the global economy.