Diversity: Decisive or Divisive?
By Bill Willard
Diversity means understanding that each of us is unique, and that no matter who we are, what we look like, where we come from or what our backgrounds may be, there is a place for us.
In the workplace, however, diversity has been a decidedly mixed bag. As Libertarian Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute put it: “’Diversity’ makes a mockery of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its command that the government treat all of us equally ‘without regard’ to the factors of race, gender and ethnicity. ‘Diversity’ [became] an excuse to discriminate.”
So, depending on how it is viewed and the way in which it is implemented, diversity can be decisive or divisive—an opportunity or importunity.
What I Think:
Diversity can be decisive when it contributes to the common good and is viewed as a resource. That is, when we recognize the value that differences in age, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation (among many other factors) can bring to any given context, from work environment and social climate to religious beliefs or political philosophy. No matter the context, but especially in business, where the mandate is to view peoples’ differences as assets, and to use them as such.
Diversity can be divisive, however, when it is used as an overt or covert tool of discrimination and inequality, as when the government ignores merit and uses legal discrimination to achieve quotas in employment or school admissions–in effect, rewarding the antithesis of merit. When that happens, diversity becomes a new brand form of McCarthyism, cheapening the concept of actual discrimination and stifling open, honest debate.
Diversity and Your Small Business
Management is responsible for fostering diversity by encouraging its use as a positive, decisive element in their companies, and actively preventing it from becoming divisive. It is, after all, illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation; and businesses can benefit from diversity only when they’re sure there is no discrimination on board, and when all employees enjoy genuine equal opportunity.
Workplace discrimination is often invisible, however, so employers should not count on victims being able to fend for themselves, or even speaking up about instances of covert discrimination. In fact, ensuring on-the-job inclusiveness may at times mean reaching out and acting favorably to groups that have traditionally met barriers.
Happily, however, after decades of hit-and-miss efforts at trying to get the thing right, workplace diversity has largely gone beyond the legal mandates to become an environment that is genuinely inclusive of all groups and which maximizes the potential and perspectives of all employees.
What Do You Think? Your comments are welcome. Have you registered?
Bill Willard is a freelance writer in Clearwater FL. He has been a high-impact writer and editor for over 30 years. In addition to his byline pieces, Bill’s beat includes ghostwriting and editing for businesses of all types and sizes, professional practitioners and individuals, and is a www.thefreestyleentrepreneur.com Contributing Author. Visit his Website: www.writergazette.com/WillardAssociates.shtml
Or contact him at email@example.com.
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