Thesis: While Diversity programs have not completely saturated corporate America, nor 100 percent accepted as valuable and equitable, they are useful and protect the interest of many companies.
Baker, Brumfield, Donnell, Lowry, and White-McLemore
January 14, 2004
At the beginning of Americas history, diversity was a subject that was neither discussed nor considered. The Constitution was written by a group of free European men who had control of their ability to make a living and to vote. Others who came to America such as African slaves, women or indentured servants were not so fortunate. Even if a slave was allowed to purchase his freedom, he was still oftentimes unable to work or eat in a place that served white customers (Wormser, 2003)
The 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ratified by Congress in 1868 and 1870 respectively, removed formal laws of discrimination against any American man over the age of 21 voting or holding office regardless of race (Americas library, Reconstruction 2003). However, many Southern states chose to impose voting taxes or literacy tests as a way to keep both the illiterate and the poor from voting or holding certain jobs. (Wormser, 2003).
Women did not receive their chance to vote or hold political office until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 after the suffrage movement efforts of Susan B. Anthony and others (Findlaw, 2003). Working outside the home in any capacity other than as a teacher, nurse or domestic help was not an available choice to women until the middle of the 20th century. However, Americas unexpected involvement in World War II would change that situation forever. The Office of War Information was created on June 13, 1942; roughly six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (Americas Library OWI, 2003). Using propaganda such as songs and posters for "Rosie the Riveter," American women were encouraged to join the workforce and fill in positions so healthy men could be freed up to go to war (ODonnell, 2003). Regretfully, many of the men left behind who were still working in the factories made the working conditions difficult for the women with unequal pay and other forms of discrimination (Metzer, 2003). Even during this shortage of workers, men and women of color had difficulty in finding employment (Wormser, 2003).
Although African and Native American men had served with the armed forces since the establishment of the American colonies, military units were segregated until World War II.
Executive Order 9981, signed by President Harry S. Truman on July 26th, 1948, stated that there would "be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin." This decree was coupled with Executive Order 9980, which was to eliminate racial discrimination in the employment of Federal Employees (Redstone, 2003).
The second half of the 20th century is where America sees an explosion of people demanding equal rights in the workplace as well as in all other aspects of life. The marches led by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. were about all people having the same rights. Laws have been passed that have allowed people of all origins to have equal access to jobs and housing.
First to bring about change was Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which monitors employment practices for all businesses (EEOC, VII, 2003) Next, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 established the precedent that employers could no longer pay employees less money because they were women (EEOC, EPA, 2003).
Other laws have been added in the last 15 years that have further expanded the workplace. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 removed the corporations ability to use discriminatory practices of firing or avoiding hiring older workers (EEOC, ADEA, 2003). Employees with disabilities saw laws put into place to require employers to make reasonable changes to the work environment with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (EEOC, ADA, 2003).
As we move into the 21st century, we will experience a more diverse workforce than our founding fathers did in the late 18th century. This change has been brought about by a combination of grass roots efforts, riots, petitions, and lawmakers who support the needs of their constituents. Each generation has to adapt to the changing face of the corporate structure, and be ready to make changes when they are needed.
The transition to a diverse society is being achieved though the progressive evolution of our society. As technology advances so does our ability to leap over barriers that historically have kept us separated culturally, economically and politically. While diversity was not a goal of decision makers over the years, it [diversity] is now a defining element that is detrimental to the success and continued competitiveness of organizations in our current economic structure.
D. Walker, T. Walker, and Schmitz (2003) found that the developments which are propelling individuals and business towards the inclusion and appreciation of the diversity inherent in our society and world at large include: "unyielding competitive pressures, rapid market shifts, major acquisitions, the lowering of trade barriers, as well as increased expectations and demands of customers and employees." (p.2) Those organizations that choose not to adopt a culture of acceptance will face certain failure in these times of economic unpredictability. However, organizations that choose to transform themselves are doing so with a strategy that embraces their cultural diversity and promotes people as their greatest asset. The business realities of today are proving to substantiate early results found in studies on diversity, which suggested the benefit for collaboration among diverse groups.
An article in The Public Manager, (Doyle and Giles 1999) talks about some of the studies that were conducted on the benefits of diverse groups. The article indicates that organizational benefits are realized in improved performance, reduced costs, and improved group problem solving ability. The Nemeth Study (1986) according to the article found that the inclusion of minority viewpoints stimulated thought processes by invoking group members to consider ideas not previously considered. Additionally, Dolan and Giles (1999) state that consistent exposure to minority viewpoints were credited with stimulating the creative thought processes in groups. The exposure was credited with adding value and improving the group decision-making process.
Among the other studies mentioned (McLeod and University of Michigan) the Kanter Study (1983) is said to imply that companies with reputations for being progressive in human resource practices are more profitable and that those companies experience greater growth than their competitors.
The overall benefit for organizations with diversity initiatives is that they appear to have employees who perceive themselves as being valued and competent. Those perceptions add value in reduced costs related to absenteeism and turnover as well as the costs implications associated with training and productivity. Employees who perceive themselves as valued make it easier for companies to accomplish their profit and market share strategic goals. (Dolan and Giles 1999) Organizations that are able to manage their diversity internally are finding it a foundational element that is key to the organizations ability to sustain competitive advantage.
The competitive environment of business today reflects the fact that the United States is no longer the dominating force it used to be in the international market place. Foreign companies have penetrated markets and made major financial investments within the United States. Factors that influence the competitive environment include open trading systems, regional groups, and collaborative structures. With added collaboration and cooperation among individuals, organizations, and political structures, diversity is being created in many ways.
Immigration laws allow for an increase migration of foreigners as they move about the globe seeking to improve their economic status here in the United States and abroad. Labor shortages have forced some countries to import guest workers to meet employment demands. The definition of labor in an organizations structure today is not limited to the aspect of foreign workers but it has expanded to include the reality of foreign owners and executives as well. (Elashmawi and Harris 2000)
Diversity training can help to reduce the uncertainty in multicultural business situations and prevent the loss of revenue that results from the mistakes caused by the social implications of diversity ignorance. Proctor and Gambles (P & G) experience with the Japanese depicts the reality of this need.
In 1973 P& G first entered the Japanese market and by 1987 had lost $200 million. Their initial use of American advertising to sell American goods did not work. The American method of using advertising in a competitive maneuver to gain market was offensive to the Japanese who value harmony and avoid direct conflict. The Japanese value product quality over price and they relate a product to the image and reputation of the company. (Walker et al. 2003)
The researchers found that Proctor and Gamble had to develop cultural competence in order to gain the trust and business of the Japanese consumer. Areas in which P & G developed competence that resulted in a turn around for their efforts in the Japanese segment were summarized to include:
In addition to decreasing companies risk from lawsuits, human resource complaints, disgruntled employees and low market share diversity programs were birthed to increase and promote a more balanced work environment. Samantha Marshall shares that two years ago, a Manhattan-based financial services firm gathered a dozen of its white male middle managers to share their feelings on diversity. Not wishing to appear politically incorrect, they brushed off the subject, simply saying, "People should be nice to each other." (Crains, 2003)
Just this year that same company a cross sampling of its employees came together to review this challenge of diversity and this time they spoke from the heart complaining that minorities get all the breaks. Overwhelmed by increased workloads, economic downturn and layoffs, these employees are finding that old tensions are coming back to the fore and the new "be nice" motto is at risk.
Affirmative action in the workplace had been known as "quota diversity." The primary goal was to increase the numbers of minorities to prevent attention from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Businesses still have a long way to go. Most of the companies that started diversifying back when it was a robust market in the late eighties and early 1990s are only halfway through the process, which takes about 10 to 12 years according to the New York Times.
Moreover, the number of minorities at the executive levels remains low. Employers are not yet providing enough formal mentoring for minority employees. Thirteen percent of employers in The Times Job Market survey say "diversity training gets cut during a downturn." (Crains, 2003) In a troubled economy, it seems like focusing on diversity is a luxury companies cannot afford, whatever its long-term business justification.
However, business must look at the efforts of diversity in a different light. This is no longer just employer feel good material. Even though hiring freezes may be in effect, companies can still focus on their existing workforces. Companies can build better, more inclusive workplaces that are friendlier to different groups of people with the workforce they have-and thus be prepared for an industry and economic turnaround.
The ways that companies approach and implement diversity is changing. For example, at We Energies, the company is moving away from the simple diversity training model-where employees learned about diversity, went to training classes, and then checked the task off their checklist-to a multi-pronged approach. Now companies like We Energies emphasizes that diversity is simply how it does business. Joyce Feaster, VP of Human Relations at We Energies notes that employees and managers are learning to ask, before making decisions, "Do we have all the right people in the room, or are we just calling the same people we always talk to? Have we included all the businesses that would be impacted by the decision?" (Alvey, 2003)
Managing diversity well means seeking ways to reward those managers who achieve cultural competency, meaning they understand how cultures differ and can hire and maintain staff across cultural lines. That certainly doesn't require accepting lower standards. It requires new skills, new hiring techniques and more aggressive training and mentoring, and it requires us to learn to identify and manage the biases we bring to work each day. By working on ourselves, we can move forward.
Many organization, including, United Parcel Service (UPS), Dennys, and Coca Cola, provide special training called diversity awareness training, to help people become aware of their own culture boundaries, their prejudices and stereotypes, so they can learn to work and live together. We will review three U.S. companies and examples of the new response to culture diversity, and defining new relationships in organizations.
United Parcel Services (UPS) state that its one of the most diverse workforces of any company in the nation. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Pacific Americans, and other minorities make up more than one-third of the companys 320,000 employees in the U.S. Minorities accounted for half of UPSs new hires in 2002. UPS is committed to equal opportunity for women. Women represent 27percent of its U.S. management team and 21percent of its overall workforce, holding jobs from package handlers, to drivers, to senior management and to UPS Board of Directors. UPS strives to provide professional opportunity.
As we approach the twenty-second century we are becoming aware of many diverse racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and religious groups in the workplace. This awareness has given birth to employers implementation of diversity training and diversity departments being established within the workplace. As opposed to the past society groups the present groups are working towards embracing differences. Many diversity education programs have been established recently in universities, colleges, corporate, and non-corporate environments.
The make-up of the workplace has shifted from the make-up of the mid-twentieth century it is no longer made up of majority white males with a small percentage of women and ethnic groups. Also, no longer is the human resources department considered like their counterpart from the past, personnel. It trains employees outside of their daily working field to be better equip to work with individuals within the organization and outside. We are made of a diverse group of individuals that would like to work efficiently and have a clearer understanding of the barriers that have separated us for so long. Building cultural competency is one of the diversity training programs that businesses have established to educate their employees on how to become self aware of feelings towards individuals that are different from them, and how the awareness and understanding of these differences is away to move on to establishing a rapport with your colleagues and subordinates. This rapport is a gateway to better communication than what was understood in the past.
According to the University of Baltimores Diversity Education Program student life is also forever becoming more diverse (University of Baltimore, August 2003). The University of Baltimore and University of Connecticut Health Center have established programs for the following: cultural connection, holidays around the world, and procedures for handling allegations of discrimination. The programs are designed to enhance and educate participates on the ability to conceptualize differences and changes in the workplace. This conceptualization is always increasing, as we become a diverse group of individuals working towards one common goal of meeting our university, college and/or workplace objectives in the future.
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