Managing diversity and equality

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What is diversity management and to what extent can it contribute to creating a fairer workplace?

“Diversity refers to human qualities that are different from our own and those of groups to which we belong; but that are manifested in other individuals and groups. Dimensions of diversity include but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexualorientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and job classification." (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission,2010) According to Etsy et al. (1995), diversity is acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity,gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status.

The process of globalization increases diversity all around the world. By the transnational circulation of workers, capital flows, and the spread of technology people from different countries, with different social backgrounds, and from diverse cultures live together and share thesame office.

For Kossek, Lobel and Brown (2005), the workforce diversity acknowledges the reality that people differ in many ways, visible or invisible, mainly age, gender, marital status, social status, disability, sexual orientation, religion, personality, ethnicity and culture. Such a diverse workforce is actually the reflection of a changing world and marketplace. And it is now common toface diversity issues in the workplace.

Diversity is often perceived as having some disadvantages such as an increased number of conflicts, a poorer internal communications, and growing management costs.
Nevertheless, in the late 60’s, following the civil rights movement in America, governments started adopting slowly anti-discriminatory legislation in order to deal with diversity issues in theworkplace (Webb, 1997). Equal employment opportunity was the goal and affirmative actions the mean. The term first appeared in one of J.F Kennedy’s Executive Order in 1961 referring to measure to achieve non-discrimination. The idea was to adopt policies that take factors such as race, colour, religion, sex into consideration to benefit a minority group or women at the expense of a majoritygroup, usually to reverse historic patterns of discrimination against. In Europe, the European Court of Justice has upheld (1997) the use in the public sector of affirmative-action programs for women, establishing a legal precedent for the nations of the European Union. In the United Kingdom, affirmative action is generally regarded as illegal with little exception (Sex Discrimination Act 2002). Butthe term is not used in the Equality Act 2010 that deals with the different types of discrimination (EHRC).

Until the 90’s equal opportunity wasn’t seen as a business issue but more as a general ethical problem to fight for the wellbeing of the society, in the perpetual quest for justice and fairness. During the 90’s, in a prosperous economic context, and facing the limited success ofaffirmative actions, companies started to develop their own practices in order to manage diversity issues. Diversity Management is slightly different from the Equal Employment Opportunity approach and Affirmative Actions.
For Torrington, Hall and Taylor (2005), one of the differences between the Equal Opportunities (EO) approach and the Diversity Management approach is that the latter is based on the‘economic and business case for recognising and valuing difference rather than the moral case for treating people equally’ on which is based the former. Here, the authors are doing a reference to the “business case” for diversity. This is the idea that hypothesise that in a globalized marketplace, when a company benefit from a diverse workforce, it can build a competitive advantage on it and take...
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