Workplace diversity has become an important issue over the last several decades. Diversity is defined as “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 age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities and qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and job classification.1 Diversity is often studied along with issues such as white privilege and affirmative action programs.
The study of diversity and diversity management has been encouraged for two reasons. One reason is the increasing prevalence of legislation that requires employers to accommodate diverse employees. This legislative framework includes things such as maternity leave and human rights legislation.2 The second reason, which has developed more recently, is the "business case for diversity."3 Research suggests that diversity in the workplace can increase organizational effectiveness (by harnessing new ideas) and improve product delivery (when the demographics of the organization closely align with marketplace demographics). This has led to the implementation of various diversity management programs. Diversity management programs are also an integral component of an organization's corporate social responsibility program and have an impact on an organization's reputation.
1. Brenmanm, Marc, and Thomas W. Sanchez (2012), Planning as if People Matter. Island Press: Washington, DC, p. 64.
2. See for example, facts about federal laws prohibiting job discrimination from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
3. See, for example: Wilson, T. (1996). Diversity at WORK: The Business Case for Equity. John Wiley & Sons Canada Limited: Etobicoke.