Managing a Diverse Workforce

Managing a Diverse Workforce

Suzette Henry-Campbell (Nova Southeastern University, USA) and Salma Hadeed (Florida International University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch066
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Today's business leaders tout the value of a multicultural workforce. This is built on the idea offered through research that the contributions of diverse sets of people, who have experienced the world in different ways, will produce innovative responses to issues confronting the organization. As a consequence, contemporary businesses have focused on improving their recruitment strategies to reflect the core values they espouse. This chapter proposes to explore a number of diversity variables; ageism, sexual orientation, gender, race and ethnicity, religion and disability, with the objective of improving our understanding of how and why they matter to organizations. The chapter acknowledges the contributions of scholars and practitioners, who continue to make the business case for inclusion as a strategic priority in an evolving and complex global environment. It is recommended that organizations reinforce their strategic vision about multiculturalism through training and development programs that will validate the importance of the initiatives being pursued.
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You can’t categorize diversity by what a person looks like. It’s what a person can do for the organization. -Charles K Poole


Literature Review

In 1978, the Supreme Court Case Regents of University of California v. Bakke, introduced the term diversity into an equity/affirmative action discussion when Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote that:

… the attainment of a diverse student body was a compelling state interest because a diverse student body would promote the “vigorous exchange of ideas” and therefore, “using race as a basis for university admission is a special concern of the First Amendment and important to the state. (Peterson, 1999, p. 19)

Diversity made its way into the management discussion in 1987 in the Hudson Institute report, Workforce 2000, which stated that blacks, women, Hispanics and immigrants make up 85% of new job seekers (Lorbiecki & Jack, 2000). However, soon after, managers realized that they were ill-equipped to deal with the new workforce, and the diverse needs of their constituents. Tsui et al. (1992, p. 549) 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”. Diversity management programs were introduced in the 1990’s in the UK and USA with the goal of:

  • Increasing the rates of participation of women and ethnic minorities.

  • Improving career prospects for minorities.

  • Incorporating wider perspectives into the decision-making process.

  • Helping organizations reach new, and formerly, untapped markets. (Lorbiecki & Jack, 2000)

But the definition of diversity in the 21st century has grown to include different variables that promote the interest of different members of the society. They include issues relating to ageism, gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and disability. Many organizations have listed these diversity variables in their policies and initiatives to form an inclusion strategy for minorities. Some organizations include a section for expatriates or immigrant workers that addresses language and culture. Hidi’s research endorses the definition that the Diversity Task Force uses and claims its validity in guiding future research. Diversity is defined as “all characteristics and experiences that define each of us as individuals” (the Diversity Work Force, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ethnicity: Characteristics which include nationality, culture, ancestry and language, used to categorize groups of people.

Ageism: Stereotyping or discriminating against someone because of their chronological age.

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits that person in one or more major life activities; or has a record of such a physical or mental impairment; or is regarded as having such a physical or mental impairment.

Race: Socially constructed way of grouping people based who share similar physical characteristics.

Religious Discrimination: Valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe or because of their feelings towards a given religion.

Diversity: All characteristics and experiences that define each of us as individuals.

Sexual Orientation: An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Gender: Characteristics that are associated with being male or female.

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