Diversity, as a word or concept, can apply to rocks, plants, animals, people, systems of law, and much else. In the United States, since the 1970s, its immediate reference, if the word is presented with nothing more to specify it, is to the diversity of races, ethnic groups, and language groups that make the United States possibly the most diverse country in the world. But its import extends far beyond its use as a neutral descriptor of this variety: It rather refers to an ideology in which this diversity is prized, considered a benefit to the society, and is to be responded to positively in public policy and by major nongovernmental interests.
Of course the differences among people can be described in many ways aside from race or ethnicity: One can refer to their opinions, their character, their height and weight, the degree of their health, and so on. But "diversity," as it is has come to be used in public and scholarly discourse since the 1970s, refers specifically to those differences, primarily in race and ethnicity, that have been the basis of exclusion or segregation or differential treatment in public action and private social interaction. Its use and import is intimately linked to the great divide of race that has shaped so much of American history, society, and culture. This specific current meaning of diversity grows out of the great effort in the 1950s and 1960s to overcome the inferior position, in law and social treatment, of American blacks. The civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, marked by major constitutional legal decisions, major legislation, insurgent social movements, violence, and changing ideologies and political demands, shaped the emergence of diversity as a central concept used to justify policies to favor excluded groups, primarily American blacks.
Very rapidly groups whose disabilities could be, with more or less justice, considered equivalent to those that blacks had suffered were included among those who contributed to the diversity of American society, a diversity that was now to be seen not as a problem but a benefit and a virtue, a pillar of American society. Most directly parallel to blacks in making up the roster of groups that were part of this diversity were the nonwhite races—American Indians ("Native Americans," in one increasingly popular formulation) and Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and many other groups, all of which are considered separate "races" in the U.S. census). A fourth group, "Hispanic Americans," as the census came to call them in 1980 (after trying "Spanish surnamed" in earlier censuses as a means of identifying a group considered "different" but clearly not a "race"), became part of the roster of the diverse, because they too suffered from disabilities—discrimination on the basis of physical differences from whites that approximate differences of race, and difference in language. These four groups emerged in the 1960s as those among the diversity of American groups that deserved some redress because of the discrimination they suffered. Asian Americans then consisted almost entirely of Chinese and Japanese, while Hispanics consisted almost entirely of Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. But very rapidly, as a result of major immigration reforms in 1965, the Asians expanded to include Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, and many other Asian groups; and the Hispanics expanded to include Cubans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Dominicans, and many other peoples from Central and Latin America and the Caribbean who left their native lands because of civil war and economic hardship.
In the wake of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, and the institution of federal requirements for affirmative action by employers and federal contractors, employers and educational institutions were required to provide counts of their employees and students according to these ethnoracial groups and by gender. Women were part of the roster of the recognized diverse that deserved some public acknowledgment from the beginning. The disabled were soon included, under legislation parallel to civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination against them. Those different because of sexual orientation—gays and lesbians—are also considered part of American diversity, but they receive as yet no public recognition parallel to that of the four ethnoracial groups and women. But in the world of higher education in particular, their distinctiveness and contribution to a valued diversity is broadly recognized, in ways parallel to those that recognize and respond to ethnoracial and gender diversity: through recognized student groups, courses of study devoted to the group, and the like.
One kind of diversity, ethnic diversity among white Americans, is not much recognized in the current discourse on diversity, or in policies that recognize or respond to diversity. Yet before diversity became a prevailing concept to recognize and appreciate significant differences among Americans, other concepts—such as the "melting pot" and "cultural pluralism"—emerged to respond to and recognize ethnic differences among white Europeans (though they were then not all necessarily considered "white"). These concepts emerged because the large new immigrant groups of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—Jews, Italians, Poles, Slavic groups, Greeks, and others from eastern and southern Europe and the Near East—were seen as different from and inferior to previous immigrants from Great Britain and northern and western Europe, and were subject to various degrees of discrimination.
The concept of the melting pot was given wide circulation by the popular play of that name, written by the English Jewish writer Israel Zangwill in 1908. But there are earlier parallels to the melting pot in the works of the nineteenth-century American writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman. The melting pot concept disputes the assumption of inferiority of the newer immigrants that was so widespread among scholars and political leaders in the early twentieth century. It implies the equality of all European groups and their equal qualifications and right to form part of and merge into the common American people. While it has on the whole a positive and benign import, the melting pot gives no acknowledgment to the idea that these groups to be merged into Anglo-America might resist assimilation, might want to cling to differences in culture and language and religion. Associated with the prevailing melting pot ideology of the early twentieth century were programs of "Americanization," the teaching of English and American history and political practice. These became particularly intense and intrusive during World War I, when it was widely feared that immigrant and ethnic groups would respond to this crisis by taking the part of their native countries, rather than as assimilated Americans.
The melting pot was then countered by a new ideology of "cultural pluralism," formulated in World War I by the philosopher Horace Kallen, who argued that America could be a symphony of diverse cultural strands that resisted forceful assimilation and Americanization. The condition of American blacks played no role in the philosophy of cultural pluralism—it referred only to European immigrants. But cultural pluralism was a rather isolated concept, advocated by few and overwhelmed by the rush to assimilation. It emerged under other names and forms in World War II—for example, "intercultural education"—because in that war the buried identifications with European homeland were seen as aiding the American war effort rather than countering American loyalty; German dictator Adolf Hitler had oppressed so many people who could be energized to oppose him. The appreciation of difference that emerged in World War II and the postwar world now began to include blacks. Hitler's racism was the enemy. Could American racism be unaffected? As American racism became for the first time since Reconstruction part of the national American political agenda, the stage was set for the civil rights revolution, civil rights legislation, and the canonization of diversity.
From Affirmative Action to Diversity
Affirmative action—federal policies and court decisions requiring employers and federal contractors and local and state governments to try to employ persons from the four ethno-racial groups and women in numbers proportionate to their presence in the labor force—was instituted in the late 1960s. It has been controversial ever since. Alongside of affirmative action in employment, colleges and universities instituted programs to increase the number of black and Hispanic students, though blacks comprised the main group of interest. These programs were not (for the most part) legally required but were instituted voluntarily, or in response to black student protest. Taking account of race required reducing the weight of academic achievement in admissions decisions. Both in the case of affirmative action in employment and in admissions to colleges and universities, greater diversity as such was initially neither the objective nor the justification: Getting higher numbers of black students than could be admitted on the basis of academic grades was the objective, and making up for past discrimination was the justification. But in a key U.S. Supreme Court case from 1978, Regents of University of California v. Bakke (438 U.S. 265), diversity as a value in education became the sole legitimate legal basis for special consideration in admissions on the basis of race. Institutions—primarily in the South—that had once discriminated against blacks were already required by federal intervention and court order to institute quotas and preference for blacks. Most institutions in the North and West, however, had no such history.
The University of California, Davis, medical school, which was sued for impermissible discrimination against whites on the basis of race in the Bakke case, could not claim that its quota for underrepresented minorities was making up for past discrimination; as a young medical school, it had never discriminated. Nevertheless it had a quota for underrepresented minorities. Four justices asserted that race could not be taken into account, four asserted it could because of societal discrimination against blacks, and one justice, Lewis Powell, joined the latter four with his own justification for preference for underrepresented minorities: Student diversity would improve the educational environment by introducing the views of underrepresented groups into the educational process. This was the argument made in an amicus brief filed in the case by Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford Universities, and the University of Pennsylvania. The brief described Harvard's admissions process as giving a plus for race to help create this diverse environment.
Various weaknesses in this argument for consideration of race have been pointed out, such as that there is no necessary connection between race and ethnicity and the views students bring to the classroom, but student diversity has since became the sole legal basis for preference. Educational institutions—undergraduate, graduate, and professional—began to lean heavily on diversity as their justification for a preference to which they are uniformly committed, for a range of reasons that would not pass constitutional muster. Important and large-scale research has been conducted to demonstrate the benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in higher education.
In 2003 the Supreme Court was forced to return to the issue of racial and ethnic preference in higher education because federal circuit courts were divided on the issue. In Grutter v. Bollinger (539 U.S. 306), which challenged race preference in admissions to the University of Michigan Law School, the centrality of diversity as the justification for affirmative action was enshrined in a new decision. The Court was very much in the same divided posture as in 1978: for four justices, to take race into account was unconstitutional; in opposition, four liberal justices defended this policy on wide grounds; and a single justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, joined the four liberal justices for the single reason, spelled out at length, that diversity aided the educational process:
The Law School's educational judgment that such diversity is essential to its educational mission is one to which we defer. The Law School's assessment that diversity, will, in fact, yield educational benefits is substantiated by respondents and their amici. … These benefits are not theoretical but real, as major American businesses have made clear that the skills necessary in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. [Here Justice O'Connor refers to briefs by 3M Company, General Motors Corporation, and other corporations.]… What is more, high-ranking retired officers and civilian leaders of the United States military assert that, "[b]ased on [their] decades of experience," a "highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps … is essential to the military's ability to fulfill its principle [ sic ] mission to provide national security." (Grutter v. Bollinger, pp. 330–331)
When the military-industrial complex, as well as the leaders of major U.S. universities, embrace diversity as a valued objective, it is clear that a great deal happened in the twenty-five years between Justice Powell's somewhat surprising choice of this single justification of affirmative action and Justice O'Connor's wide-ranging argument in its favor. America had changed. Affirmative action might still be opposed by a majority of Americans (state referenda in California and Washington had rejected it). Diversity, however, had been embraced by all.
The Diverse Society
This change cannot be ascribed only to these Supreme Court decisions, important as they are for the behavior of colleges, universities, and professional schools; it also reflects a large cultural change, and an evaluation of diversity's pragmatic benefits by key interests in American society. In the 1980s, under the administration of President Ronald Reagan, high officials hoped to limit government's affirmative action requirements by modifying the executive order that had instituted it. They discovered to their surprise, however, that big business no longer wanted to change what they had once seen as a burden. To have employees from a wide range of groups was now seen as a benefit in dealing with increasingly diverse customers and suppliers. Appreciation of diversity was widely taught in the business world, and business was perhaps more energetic in training its employees in the proper consideration of diversity than higher education itself. Affirmative action had been launched when minorities consisted overwhelmingly of blacks alone. With the opening of immigration in 1965, and the beginning of a large and unceasing flood of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and increasingly Africa, the groups considered "minority" swelled, diversity expanded, and responding to it became ever more important to businesses, the military, and politicians.
Education, however, remains in the forefront of the response to and embrace of diversity. In the 1960s, multicultural education—the inclusion in curricula of material on the four minority groups, and furthermore, the reflection of their grievances and interests everywhere in the curriculum—became a key demand of minority groups, leading to fierce controversies. Very rapidly these demands were widely recognized as legitimate. (Multiculturalism was the term under which these battles were fought, but it raised the same issues as diversity: The only difference was that multiculturalism had a more muscular and aggressive tone, whereas diversity seemed a more accommodating concept.) The content of major parts of elementary and secondary education was transformed, particularly history, English, and social studies; sometimes even mathematics and science were affected. Textbooks were transformed under new state requirements to recognize diversity. Diversity also called for increasing efforts to recruit minorities as teachers and administrators, and many minority educational leaders became superintendents of major school systems.
The impact on higher education was as great but somewhat more restricted. The demands of diversity were reflected in new programs of black studies; Hispanic, Asian, and Native American studies; women's studies; and gay and lesbian studies. Furthermore, on many campuses special living quarters and social centers were created for minority groups, and there was a heightened emphasis on the recruitment of faculty from each group. The philosophy of diversity became the common linking outlook of university presidents—all embraced it, and there were no dissidents.
The military was possibly the most successful institution in responding to and reflecting the new appreciation of diversity. The military academies—like all institutions of higher education—instituted programs to recruit larger numbers of minority officers, and it was particularly essential that they succeed because so many of those enrolled in the voluntary military forces were from minority groups. In America's wars in the 1990s against Iraq, black and Hispanic officers held the highest positions.
Governing a Diverse Society
The United States is of course not the only diverse society. Other immigrant and liberal democratic societies—such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—have been as active or more active in the recognition of diversity. The liberal democracies of western Europe have become more diverse under the impact of immigration, first fostered because of labor shortages, then continuing because their liberal traditions accept such reasons for immigration as the unification of families and the seeking of refuge from persecution. In this way, the ideology of diversity has spread throughout the liberal democratic world.
In each country one may see variations in the response to diversity. Thus, Canada became a leader in promoting multiculturalism in its efforts to accommodate the demands and interests of francophone Quebec. This has made it particularly sensitive to claims of other groups, and it offered opportunities to maintain cultural distinctiveness to immigrant groups that cannot lay claim to a specific territory. It would go too far afield to describe all the various responses to diversity, but in general the kind of forceful assimilation that was common in the past—as in the case of "Russification" in the Russian empire—is everywhere in the liberal democratic world in retreat. Turkey, for example, which had long suppressed the language and autonomy claims of its large Kurdish minority, has had to acknowledge these claims as it aims to enter the European Union.
But liberal democratic political theory, which is oriented to the individual and the individual's rights, does not sit easily with the range of issues raised by diversity. What are the rights of the group, or the rights of an individual as part of a group? The classic work of twentieth-century liberalism, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971), takes no account of this issue—the individual confronts the state or society with no intermediate formation, and this is true of classic liberal political theory generally. If a group is concentrated in a territory, one can accommodate its interests through some degree of autonomy, but when, as in the United States and in other immigrant societies, a group is spread through the population, the recognition of diversity raises difficult questions, as was particularly evident in the battles over multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s in the United States. Similar conflicts are ever more evident in western Europe. What becomes of the historic national identity when a range of diverse groups is given recognition, appreciation, and places at the tables of education, culture, and government? These issues will be part of the agenda of the liberal democratic world for many years to come.
See also Americanization, U.S. ; Assimilation ; Ethnicity and Race ; Nation .
Bowen, William G., and Derek Bok. The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Glazer, Nathan. We Are All Multiculturalists Now. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Kymlicka, Will, ed. The Rights of Minority Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Lynch, Frederic R. The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the "White Male Workplace." New York: Free Press, 1997.
Schuck, Peter H. Diversity in America: Keeping Government at a Safe Distance. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 2003.
Wood, Peter. Diversity: The Invention of a Concept. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003.
The advent of equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and affirmative action programs created new employment opportunities for members of protected groups that had previously been victimized by employment discrimination. The demographic mix within the twenty-first century workplace has consequently become much more diverse, a result not only of these laws but also due to the globalization of business. Furthermore, the changing demographics of the United States have affected worker diversity. The aging population has created what some refer to as the “sandwich generation”: the group of the population who are charged with caring for both their parents and their children.
In today's world, fewer workers support Medicare and Social Security. To provide opportunities for the new population of workers, businesses are allowing more flextime, telecommuting, and sabbaticals. They are also training line managers to respond to the cultural, lingual, generational, and technological differences that the new workforce introduces. Finally, more retirees are returning to the workforce.
All these new realities add up to a different-looking workplace. No longer are the majority of workers white, male, and English-speaking. People of color continue to increase their shares of the labor force as these groups grow more rapidly than whites. In fact, white non-Hispanics are projected to continue to decline as a percentage of the labor force.
The Hispanic population growth will be a key and growing portion of a more diverse workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Hispanic labor force will grow by 30 percent by 2015, reaching nearly 27 million. By 2025, Hispanics are predicted to make up 17 percent of the total labor force. This group gained a greater share of the market than African Americans in 2000. At that time, Hispanics made up 13 percent, and African Americans, 12.7 percent. Finally, it is estimated that Asians and other people of color will make up about 8 percent of the labor force in 2025.
In the United States, the average age of the workforce is getting older, mirroring the age demographics of the population. The number of workers 55 and older is expected to reach about 23 million by 2016. This represents a growth rate of 46.7 percent, which is almost 5.5 times the projection for the overall labor force.
The workforce is also experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of dual-income families (many of whom have young children); in 2005, women made up 46 percent of the workforce, but in 1975, they made up less than 40 percent of the total. The workforce is also reacting to an increase in single-parent families and families facing the demands of elder care. The labor market will continue to be significantly impacted by the aging of the baby-boom generation.
In the past, organizations ignored the impact that diversity had on the attitudes and behavior of employees. However, years of political, social, and legal change brought new groups of employees into the workplace. At first, organizations attempted to handle these new groups through assimilation; simply put, people were expected to fit in. Equal treatment at the workplace meant the same treatment for each employee; individual differences were ignored. Consequently, assimilation often resulted in pressure to conform, exclusion and isolation, and reinforcement of the dominant group values. The problem became compounded as the number of diverse groups within the organization increased and the number of white males declined.
The failure to deal effectively with the diversity issue can hinder competitive advantages. For instance, firms choosing to do business as usual have been plagued with a high turnover among nontraditional employees, low morale within the organization, under-utilization of employee skills, numerous intergroup conflicts, low productivity, and an inability to attract new workers. On the other hand, if diversity is dealt with effectively, competitive advantage can be enhanced. For instance, companies that value diversity can attract a larger and better pool of applicants than companies that limit themselves to a traditional workforce.
Accommodating the needs of the diverse workforce is more important to organizations now than ever before. When properly managed, such cultural diversity can represent a key strategic advantage. Diversity in age, gender, race, and viewpoint can offer organizations a number of benefits including additional knowledge, creative ideas and insights to aid in problem solving, enhanced product positioning, better development of strategic plans and objectives, and fresh opinions. These diverse workers can bring original ideas and approaches to the workplace that can help a firm target its products and services to a marketplace that is becoming more and more diverse. This adds economic importance to the issue of diversity since, in 2007, the combined African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American buying power was more than $750 billion.
MINORITIES IN THE WORKPLACE
Although minorities have been entering the workforce in record numbers, their quests to reach the top of the corporate ladder have been thwarted. Many have topped out at entry- or mid-level management positions. Minorities have failed to reach the highest levels of management partly because many have only recently entered the managerial ranks; it takes time to climb the corporate ladder. However, this explanation does not account for the magnitude of the problem. For years minorities have faced invisible, subtle, yet very real institutional barriers to promotions into higher level executive positions. The belief that minority groups reach organizational plateaus consisting of artificial barriers that derail them from senior management opportunities has been alternately termed “the glass ceiling” or “the brick wall.” These barriers found in the structure of many organizations have often stymied the advancement of these select employee groups.
How can the glass ceilings be cracked or the brick walls broken down? Effective diversity training that helps decision makers overcome their biases would certainly help. But diversity training, by itself, is not enough, and
diversity management must not be confused with affirmative action. The Society for Human Resource Management recommends the following components for a successful diversity initiative:
- Get executive commitment. Enlisting the visible support and commitment of your organization's CEO is fundamental to a successful diversity initiative.
- Articulate the desired outcomes. Be explicit about how support and commitment are to be shown and from whom it is expected.
- Assess the climate, needs, and issues at your organization. The use of focus groups can help clarify the obstacles. It will prove helpful to determine where your organization currently is on the diversity continuum before determining what interventions need to be taken.
- Create and maintain open channels of communication with employees at the launch of your diversity initiative and throughout the process. Communication is crucial to the success of your diversity plan and should occur not only at the beginning of a diversity initiative, but also throughout the process.
- Consider forming a diversity taskforce to widen your support base. This group can help analyze assessment data and make recommendations to top management.
- Develop a mechanism for dealing with systemic changes and procedural problems. Once identified, obstacles and problems must be addressed. For example, your company may be committed to hiring persons outside of the dominant culture, but has difficulty promoting those same persons once they are with the organization.
- Design relevant, interactive, applicable training. The purpose of good training is to not just increase awareness and understanding about diversity, but to also develop concrete skills that employees can use to deal with workplace diversity, its implications, and its effects.
- Evaluate and measure each component of your diversity initiative (training, taskforce, mentoring initiative, employee networks, etc.). Set measurable criteria and determine what you would like to accomplish and how you will gather data.
- Ensure integration and accountability. Integrate the concepts, skills and results of your diversity efforts into the fabric of the organization and hold management accountable for encouraging diversity throughout the organization.
Inclusive companies have similar characteristics. They usually support local diversity groups, have clear, written anti-discrimination policies, and allow and support diversity-employee-affinity groups to support the networking and mentoring needs of their employees. They also incorporate companywide diversity training as a standard part of their business.
Dealing with diversity is a continuing process that enhances an organization's ability to adapt and capitalize on today's increasingly complex world and global marketplace. In an online survey of more than 2,500 senior human resources executives in the United States and Canada, employers say that globalization has prompted them to enhance their diversity efforts or their inclusion programs.
Changes in American society have brought unprecedented social diversity into the workforce. Immigrants from all over the world and societal segments that have been excluded or poorly represented in the past are entering new professions and attaining management and leadership roles. Corporate cultures, employment policies, and networks of influence have been forced to change. The principal challenge for American employers today lies less in finding diverse talent but in developing it and creating an environment that supports social cohesion amid the diversity. A well-managed diverse workforce can give companies the competitive advantage necessary to compete in a global economy.
SEE ALSO Employment Law and Compliance; Mentoring; Organizational Culture
Bell, E.E., and S.M. Nkomo. Our Separate Ways. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2001.
Counting Minorities. Available from: http://www.bls.gov/opub/rtaw/chapter1.htm.
“Four Characteristics that Demonstrate that a Company is Diversity Friendly.” Diversityjobs.com 14 June 2008. Available from: http://blog.diversityjobs.com/four-characteristics-that-demostrate-a-company-is-diversity-friendly.
Fullerton, H.N., Jr. “Labor Force Participation: 75 Years of Change, 1950–98 and 1998–2025.” Monthly Labor Review 122, no. 12 (1999): 3–12.
Fullerton, H.N., Jr., and M. Toossi. “Labor Force Projections to 2010: Steady Growth and Changing Composition.” Monthly Labor Review 124, no. 11 (2001): 21–38.
Mitra, A. “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: African American Women in Management Positions.” Equal Opportunities International 22, no. 2 (2003): 67–80.
“More Companies Expand Their Diversity and Inclusion Efforts in Response to Globalization.” Diversityjobs.com 15 Apr 2008. Available from: http://blog.diversityjobs.com/four-characteristics-that-demonstrate-a-company-is-diversity-friendly.
Ruiz, Gina. “BLS Report: Get Ready for a Smaller, More Diverse Workforce.” 13 Dec 2007. Available from: http://www.workforce.com/section/00/article/25/26/71.html.
Stodghil, Ron. “Is There Room at the Top for Black Executives?” New York Times 1 Nov 2007. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/01/business/01generation.html?pagewanted=print.
Tatum, B.D. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? New York, NY: Basic Books, 2003.
Toossi, M. “Labor Force Projections to 2012: The Graying of the U.S. Workforce.” Monthly Labor Review 127, no. 2 (2004): 37–57.
U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau. Available from: http://www.dol.gov/wb/factsheets/Qf-ESWM05.htm.
“What Are the Components of a Successful Diversity Initiative?” Available from: http://www.shrm.org/diversity/components.asp.
Diversity, one of the buzzwords of the early twenty-first century, has become a concept that has multiple meanings to different groups of people. Although dictionaries usually define diversity by using terms like “variety,” “difference,” or “dissimilarity,” social scientists usually talk about diversity in at least four different ways.
1. Counting diversity refers to empirically enumerating differences within a given population. Using this definition, social scientists take a particular population and simply count the members according to specific criteria, often including race, gender, and ethnicity. In addition, it is possible to take a particular unit within a society like a school, workplace, or government and compare its race, ethnic, or gender distribution to that of the general population. Often, suspicious questions are raised the farther the diversity of a subunit differs from that of the larger population.
2. Culture diversity refers to the importance of understanding and appreciating the cultural differences between race, ethnic, and gender groups. Since members of one culture often view others in relationship to their own standards, social scientists using the culture diversity definition would argue that it is important to show that differences do not have to be evaluated along a good-bad or moral-immoral scale. With greater tolerance and understanding, the argument goes, different cultural groups can coexist with one another in the same society.
3. Good-for-business diversity refers to the belief that businesses will be more profitable and government agencies and not-for-profit corporations will be more efficient with diverse labor forces. According to this approach, members of particular cultural groups are more effective than non-group members in dealing with their own groups so it is in the interests of organizations to diversify workers and managers.
4. Conflict diversity refers to understanding how different groups exist in a hierarchy of inequality in terms of power, privilege, and wealth. According to this definition, dominant groups oppress subordinate groups in many societies and it is important for social scientists to understand the nature of this oppression in order to help attain a more egalitarian society.
In the real world, these four approaches often overlap. However, people using different approaches often ask different types of questions. One can see how this works by examining a hypothetical city in the United States that is having difficulty between the local police department and the black and Hispanic population.
A social scientist with a counting diversity perspective might compare the black and Hispanic distribution in the police department with the distribution in the city. Typically, blacks and Hispanics would be underrepresented in the police department and even more highly underrepresented at the upper levels of the department.
A culture diversity scholar, on the other hand, would be more concerned with how the police understand the black and Hispanic communities since this also affects their actions. Do the predominantly white police interpret certain types of speech and clothing as threatening when it is simply part of the black and Hispanic subculture? Do they act in ways that inadvertently disrespect members of the community, thus causing even more tension? Being more sensitive to black and Hispanic cultural values might make the job of the police easier.
The good-for-business perspective would argue that the police would be more effective if they had more black and Hispanic officers who would be more likely to be familiar with the culture of those communities. In addition, members of the community might not be so hostile if the police were seen as some of their own.
Finally, culture conflict social scientists would argue that the police represent the interests of the dominant group: wealthy, white men in business and politics. The police represent the property rights of the dominant group and enforce the laws that they have enacted. Black and Hispanic police officers enforce the same unfair laws as their white colleagues, although they may do it more humanely. The goal is not just to have a more representative and culturally sensitive police force. The goal is to change the laws in order to have a more equitable society.
Concerns about diversity, however it is defined, also intersect with policies like affirmative action. Employment-based affirmative action is based on comparing the racial distribution of employees in a given workplace with the racial distribution of the pool of workers who are qualified for a specific job. This is counting diversity. In the United States, employers with $50,000 in federal contracts and fifty or more employees are required to make a “good faith effort” to achieve a representative labor force; that is, they must try. Formal hiring quotas, where employers are legally obligated to hire a certain percentage of underrepresented workers, are more difficult to justify. In India, on the other hand, these hiring quotas are used much more extensively.
In higher education, both counting diversity and a version of culture diversity are involved. According to the 2003 Grutter and Gratz decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, affirmative action in college admissions is constitutional because it is in the educational interests of all students to be exposed to a diversity of views on campus. Racial diversity is one way to enhance the diversity of views. However, strict numerical comparisons and formulas cannot be used. Instead, “holistic” assessments of each candidate must take place in order to achieve an undefined “critical mass” of each student group. Since white and Asian students are overrepresented in American higher education, these critical mass guidelines refer mainly to underrepresented minorities like blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. A good-for-business perspective is also involved since the court noted that law schools and, to a lesser extent, all of higher education train future leaders who should be selected from all racial groups.
Neither affirmative action in employment nor in higher education reflects the conflict diversity perspective since the role and structure of higher education and the economy is not questioned. The relative power of workers and their bosses/managers is not addressed. The purpose of higher education is not addressed. All that is addressed is the racial characteristics of those who occupy various positions. When reading an article about diversity, it is critical to understand which approach the author is using.
Anderson, Margaret L., and Patricia Hill Collins. 2007. Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Ore, Tracy E. 2006. The Social Construction of Difference and Inequality: Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality. 3rd ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Pincus, Fred L. 2006. Understanding Diversity: An Introduction to Class, Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Rosenblum, Karen E., and Toni-Michelle C. Travis. 2006. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class and Sexual Orientation. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Fred L. Pincus
di·ver·si·ty / diˈvərsitē; dī-/ • n. (pl. -ties) the state of being diverse; variety: there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports. ∎ [usu. in sing.] a range of different things: newspapers were obliged to allow a diversity of views to be printed.