What is diversity? Simply put, diversity is the inclusion of people of differing cultures and identities into a business or organization to benefit its operations. The “business case” for diversity comes from the development of the various models of diversity in the workplace since the early 1960s. These models include the integration of people, an increased focus on cultural diversity, and the establishment of a diversified workforce.
There are several theories on what is diversity. According to organizational theories, diversity results from the existence of a hierarchy in organizations. This theory also states that there is a difference between the characteristics of people who have different backgrounds and social categories. Differences in behavior, abilities, and personality contribute to the dynamics of this hierarchy. The theory of the necessity of diversity in the workplace further states that there is no room for discrimination, because even if some employees enjoy the discrimination themselves, they will not be able to affect the way the company operates due to the presence of other employees who do not share the same values.
Social theories on what is diversity discuss the effect that a company’s recruitment policies have on creating a diverse workplace. Differential policies for employees in a company may result in creating divisions along lines of race, gender, or religion, thus creating a diverse social context. Companies may also choose to implement strict policies to create a diverse social context, such as eliminating prejudice or bias, or instituting policies that discourage employees from using specific words or phrases in the workplace. Such policies can also discourage employees from using certain forms of social network online, such as blogging or sharing pictures on the internet.
A third theory on what is diversity addresses the question of what happens when people with different beliefs and values come together. The theory of difference is that people must have a space where they can engage in the shared activity of creating meaning. Differences are then based on self-reflection and the sharing of that reflection to create meaning. In other words, people must be encouraged and supported in the process of becoming a diverse group that has the power to shape its own social context.
A fourth theory on what is diversity explains why some forms of diversity are encouraged in the workplace over others. According to this theory, companies must provide a variety of forms of diversity if they want to ensure that their work force has a variety of beliefs and options. Some employers create formal policies about what is acceptable in the workplace, while others enforce Title VII’s ban on discrimination of religious belief or disability. Employers also promote unity by creating work settings that foster a sense of belonging among workers.
A fifth theory of what is diversity addresses the question of what is diversity when it affects the way the media portrays diversity. For example, some news reports tend to focus on the actions of a small number of individuals who inflict violence or harm. These stories are then followed by critiques from a wide range of professionals. The result is that the victim and the perpetrator are usually cast as two distinct characters with different and competing sets of values. In the end, many viewers interpret these two individuals as representative of their own cultural and religious differences. This oversimplification feeds into the idea that the workplace can be a place of intense and divisive divisions that serve to isolate and marginalize those who belong to different backgrounds and perspectives.
The sixth explanation of what is diversity casts doubt on what is equality. Many employees and employers insist that their company’s recruitment practices do not discriminate against anyone. However, studies have shown that some forms of discrimination are significantly more common than others. Internal resistance to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) calls for greater workplace diversity and cultural awareness. When an organization has an internal culture that resists the idea of a diversified workplace, it can often prevent the organization from becoming truly diverse and progressive.
Finally, a seven-year study conducted in 2021 by Cornell University revealed what is diversity. This study found that, out of a group of 500 students, minority individuals were the most represented in undergraduate study groups. Furthermore, the most represented group in this study were women, although men were slightly more present in student groups. From these results, it is clear that diversity exists in many workplaces, including but not limited to the executive suite, the boardroom, the conference room, and the warehouse. Companies that fail to recognize and value the contributions of people who identify with a different background or perspective, or refuse to promote and give jobs to people with diverse characteristics and accomplishments are doing themselves and their businesses a disservice.