- Diversity is the real or perceived differences between individuals. Diversity can include race, gender, sexual orientation, size, cultural background, and many other differences. Multiculturalism is similar to diversity but focuses on the development of a greater understanding of how power in society can be unequal because of race, gender, sexual orientation, power, and privilege.
- Power and privilege is a system of advantages based on one’s race, gender, and sexual orientation. This system can often be invisible (to those who have it), which results in one race or gender having unequal power in the workplace. Of course, this unequal power results in unfairness, which may be a legal concern.
- Diversity is important to the success of organizations. Many studies have shown a direct link between the amount of diversity in a workplace and the success of the company.
- Oftentimes there are cultural aspects to an organization that make it resistant to an inclusive environment. These are often not obvious, but awareness of how your own company culture impacts multiculturalism is important. Job announcements, testing, and pay differences are company culture components that can create exclusive environments.
- In recruitment, awareness of how and where you post announcements is crucial. Development of a set pay scale can alleviate some of the issues surrounding unfair pay, especially between men and women.
- Formal mentorship programs can create multicultural understanding and ensure people do not stick with their own race or gender when helping someone move up the ranks in an organization.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency charged with development and enforcement of laws relating to multiculturalism and diversity in the workplace.
- The EEOC covers discrimination based on several areas. Companies cannot discriminate based on age—that is, against someone who is forty or older. They also can’t discriminate against people with disabilities or on the basis of race, genetic information, national origin, gender, or religion.
- Retaliation is also illegal, based on EEOC laws. An organization cannot retaliate against anyone who has filed a complaint with the EEOC or a discrimination lawsuit.
- The US Department of Labor oversees some aspects of EEOC laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This act requires organizations to give twelve weeks of unpaid leave in the event of an adoption, birth, or caregiving of sick family members.
But…It’s Our Company Culture!
You are the HR manager for a fifty-person firm that specializes in the development and marketing of plastics technologies. When you were hired, you felt the company had little idea what you should be paid and just made up a number, which you were able to negotiate to a slightly higher salary. While you have been on the job for three months, you have noticed a few concerning things in the area of multiculturalism, besides the way your salary was offered. The following are some of those items:
- You know that some of the sales team, including the sales manager, get together once a month to have drinks at a strip club.
- A Hispanic worker left the organization, and in his exit interview, he complained of not seeing a path toward promotion.
- The only room available for breast-feeding mothers is the women’s restroom.
- The organization has a policy of offering $200 to any employee who refers a friend, as long as the friend is hired and stays at least six months.
- The manufacturing floor has an English-only policy.
- You have heard managers refer to those wearing turbans in a derogatory way.
What do you think needs to be done to create a more inclusive environment, without losing the culture of the company? What suggestions would you make to those involved in each of the situations?
- In groups, research recent high-profile cases involving diversity or multiculturalism. Prepare a five-minute presentation on the case to present to classmates.