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The emergence of diversity in organizations can be traced to the 1960s when legislation was enacted to prohibit discrimination against ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, and religion. Even though workplace diversity origins began in the aftermath of World War I, it was not until 1961, when President John F Kennedy established the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), which was to end discrimination in employment by the government and its contractors (Cañas & Sondak, 2011). Workplace diversity continued to be advanced through the years by Presidents Johnson and Nixon administrations.
The EEO was the government’s attempt to ensure that all individuals have an equal chance for employment, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin. Workplace diversity is fundamental to the structure of an organization, ensuring that individuals are also characterized by their differences as they are by their similarities. A desire for a diverse workplace reinforced by the need to comply with anti-discrimination legislation places a big demand on organizations.
Workplace Laws and Policies
The impact of diversity in the workplace is contingent upon several factors. Across companies diversified workforces are becoming increasingly common. To successfully manage a diverse workforce, organizations are ensuring that employees understand how their values and stereotypes influence their behavior toward others of different gender, ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds; are gaining an appreciation of cultural differences among themselves; and behaviors that isolate or intimidate minorities are being improved (Noe et al., 2010, pg. 302).
A basic problem regarding the implementation of diversity into the workplace is that its approach sometimes does not fit the interpretations of equity and equality according to the context in which it was meant.
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Diversity policies present an organization with several challenges, including the attitudes of the employees. Given that individuals are ingrained in their attitudes toward others based on personal history, changing those established viewpoints in a company provides an enormous problem. Company policies are written to alter employee’s instilled beliefs, to allow for a more diverse workforce. The responsibility of the organization’s leaders is not only to accomplished diversity policies and programs, but to ensure a smooth transition. Using an affirmative action approach to diversity not only provides the assurance for a smooth transition, but it also honors individual differences.
In an increasingly multicultural workforce, companies have an even greater desire to avoid bad publicity. While the equal employment laws and affirmative action initiatives of the 1960s were the catalysts for organizational change, legislation is just not enough (Harvey & Allard, 2009). With the passage of Title VII, the government intended to eliminate employment discrimination and the effects of it. One important step organizations took as a defense against any discrimination claims was to develop a thorough equal opportunity policy, in conjunction with appropriate complaint and investigation procedures (Cañas & Sondak, 2011). A company’s ability to show that it has policies, followed by regular employee training not only protects the organization from losses in Title VII cases, but there is also a guarantee that employees are more aware.
In a Hudson Institute survey that was administered twelve years ago authors Carrell, Mann, and Sigler (2006) compared the organizations today to their diversity programs and practices. Since the Hudson report, the organizations took two general approaches to defining diversity; one way was according to diversity in terms of the EEOC and affirmative action, and the other was a broader concept that included all the ways that people can be different (Carrell et al., 2006). The original report implied the organizations would adopt the affirmative action approach in dealing with their diverse workforce. Instead the broader concept focused on the ways people are different and how it can affect the organization has proved to be more effective.
In conclusion, the organization’s goal for workforce diversity is to respond to the realities and to unleash every employee’s potential. For instance, in areas where language dominates the business, the company must set aside any biases to attract, retain, and motivate their valuable human assets effectively if they are to be competitive. Out with the old and in with the new, companies must revamp their policies programs to better serve their customers.
Bleijenbergh, I., Peters, P., & Poutsma, E. (2010). Diversity management beyond the business case. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 29(5), 413-421.
Cañas, K. A. & Sondak, H. (2011). Opportunities and challenged for workplace diversity: Theory, cases, and exercises. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Carrell, M. R., Mann, E. E., & Sigler, T. H. (2006). Defining workforce diversity programs and practices in organizations: A longitudinal Study. Labor Law Journal, 57(1), 5-12.
Noe, R. A., Hollenbeck, J. R., Gerhart, B., & Wright, P. M. (2010). Human resources management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hi