Managing diversity is defined as, “Planning and implementing organizational systems and practices to manage people so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximized while its potential disadvantages are minimized”¹. In essence, diversity is a combination of differences and similarities among people. Some of these differences include race, ability, sexual orientation, language, and gender. It is important to understand that diversity is not just about noticing and accepting differences and similarities; it is about utilizing different views, ideas, skills, and knowledge to understand diversity.
In the workplace, it is important to treat people from all backgrounds and abilities in a fair manner. Many people think that “fairness” means treating everyone the same. In reality, fairness is ensuring that everyone receives the same information, regardless of how it has to be communicated¹. Ignoring diversity issues costs time, money, and efficiency. Some of the consequences can include unhealthy tensions between people of different genders, races, ages, and abilities, a loss of productivity, inability to attract talent, and legal actions and complaints¹.
Affirmative action is a method to accomodate diversity by focuses on giving certain groups the power to contribute to organizational goals. The groups that are historically targeted in the United States the most are people of color and women. Affirmative action emphasizes legal necessity and social responsibility while managing diversity emphasizes business necessity¹.
Some other methods for accommodating diversity include offering childcare, elder care, flexible work arrangements, disability accommodation, and literacy training. Diversity issues change depending on the region or country being investigated. For example, gender inequality is an issue worldwide, but religion and ethnicity separate people in India and the Middle East. Additionally, household status divides off-farm migrants and urbanites in China². In Canada, the biggest challenges facing managers in mediating diversity are the inclusion of women, Aboriginals, and visible minorities.
1. Concepts & Definitions. Retrieved from http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/guides/managing-hr/interaction/diversity/concepts
2. Lee, SiakWai. (February 2009). Managing Diversity Through Human Resource Management: An INternational Perspective and Conceptual Framework. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/39306706/Managing-Diversity-Through-Human-Resource-Management-an-International-Perspective-and-Conceptual-Framework