Making Diversity a Workplace Reality
Published 19 Aug 2017
In 2006 and even now, an overwhelming majority of corporations wish to diversity their workplaces. Most believe that it is the right thing to do and it’ll open up marketing opportunities. Diverse groups also give way to a better variety of ideas. People tend to be attracted to diverse companies. Diversity isn’t just about racial and cultural background; it also covers religion and sexual orientation. Since the real world is composed of different cultures, religions, and other ideologies, why shouldn’t the workplace? However, change does not happen overnight. Certain initiatives must be taken in order for successful organizational changes to occur.
Following the September 11 attacks, life was not the same for any American. Specifically, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “the focus was on preventing workplace discrimination, harassment and backlash against innocent employees and applicants for employment who were, or were perceived to be, Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian or Sikh” (Dominguez, 103). They also had to impose tighter employment screening processes to eliminate potential workplace threats. In addition, they need to design emergency preparation and evacuation plans and have backup data systems in the event of another terrorist attack.
Age, color, accent, and disability discrimination are still rampant. Teens have also been harassed in the workplace (Dominguez, 104). With this in mind, more and more workers in this generation are refusing to identify with just one race or ethnicity. This is known as the “Tiger Woods generation” (Dominguez, 105). All businesses are struggling with ways to diversify their staff “to meet the needs of the country’s constantly changing demographics” (Garcia, 14). Regardless, employers are still required to report 100% of their workforce demographics in the EEO-1 form. The government collects the data from those forms.
Sexual orientation is also an issue in the workplace. There are many people that are homophobic. On February 21, 2007, a Florida newspaper reported that Steven Stanton, Largo, Florida’s city manager of 14 years, was planning to have a sex-change operation. Six days after that, he was fired by the city commissioners (Marques, 1). Stanton was planning to start an education program to address employee concerns about his upcoming operation; unfortunately, the employees had to read about it before their manager could tell them himself. If they had been more educated, perhaps his employees would have been more tolerant of his decision. Maybe Stanton would still be the city manager. People tend to be closed-minded to issues that they know little about.
Since the September 11 attacks, more people have embraced their religious beliefs (Hand, 26). An employee’s faith can also bring issues at work. “Religion in the workplace is a dimension of diversity, so over the last 10 years-as diversity initiatives have taken root in corporations-they’ve looked at religion as a dimension of diversity” (Hand, 26). Companies are now paying more attention to employees’ faith. For example, one belonging to the Jewish faith could take time off from work to observe a religious holiday like Rosh Hashanah. Muslims observe Ramandan for an entire month. During this time, they fast, pray, and evaluate their religious selves (Gueye, 1). Many Christian observe Good Friday by attending services and/or fasting. Some people even hold Bible studies during their breaks or lunch hour for interested persons.
Two bills are pending in Congress that will provide protection against discrimination in the workplace because of sexual orientation and religious views (Ritter, 5). The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 will grant protection against discrimination in the workplace for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2007 requires employers to make “a reasonable accommodation for the sincerely held religious views of their employees, absent ‘undue hardship'” (Ritter, 5). Most employers know that employees that work longer office hours and come from a two-income family have stress in their home lives (Hand, 26). If employers are flexible with their employees, conflicts can be avoided. Good communication is also important as well as compassion and tolerance. After all, “diversity helps retain your people” (Espinoza, 43).
Companies can create ways for employees to understand each other; however, it in order for those methods to be successful, the company’s CEO needs to set the example (Garcia, 14). Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but to create and maintain a “well-balanced, healthy work force” (Hand, 29). This is the reason that companies like PepsiCo have been successful in diversifying their work environment. It’s part of their entire mission (Garcia, 16).
In conclusion, the country’s demographics are constantly changing. People in general do not want to be grouped into one racial or ethnic group. Many want to openly express their sexual orientation. Still, others would like to express their various religious faiths. “If both the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Workplace Religious Freedom Act become law, the legal duty of employers to accommodate employees with sincerely held faith-based beliefs against homosexuality will be heightened, though not by as much as the change in the “undue hardship” standard would suggest” (Ritter, 7). As it has already been stated, good communication is equally important as compassion and tolerance.
Companies need to start with an education program; it was Steven Stanton’s intention to educate his employees first. Diversity is about understanding others, and it all starts with the top person in the company. “Companies want to hold themselves out as the employer of choice” (Espinoza, 43). Everyone must work together to reach a common goal.
- Dominguez, Cari M. (2007, October). Workplace Reality, Federal Expectations. HRMagazine, 52(10), 103-107.
- Espinoza, Manual (2007, April). Turning Diversity Into a Competitive Advantage. Financial Executive, 23(3), 43-45.
- Garcia, Tonya and Schmelzer, Randi. (2006, Dec 11). Diversity from the Top Down. PRweek, 9(49), 14-20.
- Gueye, Ali Mohammed. (2008, June 20). The Virtues of Ramandan: Repentance, Worship, Prayers. The Gambia Echo, pp. 1-2.
- Hand, Jon (2007, Feb 23). Firms Use Diversity Policies to Cover Faith Issues At Work. Rochester Business Journal, 22(48), 26-29.
- Marquez, Jessica (2007, March 12). Limits of Diversity Program Revealed. Workplace Management, 86(5), 1-3.
- Ritter, Bob (2008, Jan/Feb). Collision of Religious and Gay Rights in the Workplace. The Humanist, 68(1), 5-7.