The Diversity Paradox

The Diversity Paradox

J. Jacob Jenkins (California State University, Channel Islands, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-2405-6.ch006
OnDemand PDF Download:
Available
$37.50
No Current Special Offers
TOTAL SAVINGS: $37.50

Abstract

The diversity paradox is an organizational emphasis placed upon one potential understanding of diversity which, paradoxically, deemphasizes alternative expressions of individual difference. An organizational focus on representations of gender, for instance, synchronously moves the focus away from sexual orientation; an focus on sexual orientation synchronously moves the focus away from age; and so on. The diversity paradox commonly manifests via six interrelated tenants. First, organizational discourses promote a fractionated understanding of what it means to be a diverse organization, resulting in a visible hierarchy of difference and the sense of false attainment among its leadership. Among organizational members, this false attainment results in neglected representation for certain minorities, as well as diminished alternatives for organizational life and an increased level of potential tokenism. The present article explores the diversity paradox in more detail, including its background, six primary tenants, and future recommendations.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

The diversity paradox is an organizational emphasis placed upon one potential understanding of diversity which, paradoxically, deemphasizes alternative expressions of individual difference. An organizational focus on representations of gender, for instance, synchronously moves the focus away from sexual orientation; an organizational focus on representations of sexual orientation synchronously moves the focus away from age; and so on. This article explores the diversity paradox in more detail, including its background and six primary tenants: fractionated understanding, visible hierarchy, false attainment, neglected representation, diminished alternatives, and potential tokenism. The article concludes with recommendations for both researchers and lay leaders alike whom hope to cultivate healthier organizational milieu.

The diversity paradox is an especially significant phenomenon in today’s increasingly diversified society. Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more salient than within the United States. The percentage of Americans who self-identify as white has been in steep decline for decades, and this diversification is only projected to continue in the coming decades. Today, approximately 60% of those living in the United States identify as white, 17% as Latinx, 12% as black/African American, 5% Asian, and 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native. Yet by the year 2055, the percentage white Americans is predicted to decrease by nearly 15 percentage points, resulting in the United States no longer having a single racial/ethnic majority (Pew Research Center, 2016). This trend in increased diversification is mirrored elsewhere as well – fueled by political alliances in the European Union, immigration policies in South America, international trade agreements in North America, and so on (Rice, 2010).

Despite the increased diversity in countries like the United States – or perhaps because of it – issues of racial/ethnic inequality continue to plague our world. This reality is evident whether measured by income inequality (Glazer, 2005), health disparities (Dillon, Roscoe, & Jenkins, 2012), education levels (Closson, 2010), or incarceration rates (Ward, Farrell, & Rousseau, 2009). For these reasons, it is more important than ever for contemporary organizational leaders and scholars to learn how to engage with culturally diverse voices, perceptions, and taken for granted assumptions. The diversity paradox contributes to this need for increased understanding by revealing specific ways that diverse members manage tensions and limitations, thus, holding promise for improved racial/ethnic relations within intercultural contexts, organizations, and society writ large.

Top

Background

The diversity paradox first emerged as a theoretical framework during Jenkins’ (2013, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c) four-year ethnography of Central Community Church (pseudonym) – an intercultural congregation located in Tampa Bay’s urban corridor. In reference to Christian Scriptures that depict a culturally diverse body of believers (see Matthew 28:9; Acts 17:26-27; Revelation 7:9, New International Version), Central Community strove to “reflect and impact the specific realities of [its] surrounding community” (Jenkins, 2014a, p. 7). Thus, Central Community actively promoted diversity via church literature, congregational events, and communal outreach efforts. A majority of sermon topics addressed the need for organizational diversity, and the church’s website described itself as “a multi-ethnic community…transforming the world through Jesus Christ” (Central Community, 2015, par. 3).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset