Earlier this week we spoke about the many facets of multiculturalism within the workplace which, ultimately, lead to workplace diversity. Today I’d like to take a closer look at each of those aspects.
Let’s start with age. The age of the average worker is increasing – less people are retiring at an early age. Medical care is better, which enables them to work longer; and others simply don’t have the option for retirement. We now have an eclectic mix of age groups scattered throughout the workforce. There are both pros and cons to having older employees in the workplace. While they’re more experienced (and often more professional), they also cost more to employ because they have different health insurance needs.
Gender is another important facet when it comes to organisational diversity. There are more women in the workplace today than ever before. Gone are the days when women were expected to stay home and merely cook, clean, and care for the children. Women now share positions in the workplace that they had never dared dream about, but they still have several challenges to consider. One such challenge is the “glass-ceiling” philosophy – in which a woman has trouble advancing to higher top-management type positions simply because of her gender. While this problem isn’t as prevalent as it has been in the past, it does still exist.
Ethnicity is another key player, and one that still needs quite a bit of attention. The ethnicity of the average workplace has changed significantly. Where we might have seen a primarly white workplace in the past, we are now seeing culturally diverse workplaces with even percentages of whites, Asians, Hispanics, and a number of other ethnic cultures. In the past different ethnic groups may have earned different wages or may have only been able to obtain low-level positions, but this is changing as well.
There are a few other things to consider when discussing organisational diversity and multiculturalism as well. We now have a wide variety of single parents, political viewpoints, sexual orientations, and even handicaps to consider.
Some corporations are better at dealing with these differences than others. As a manager, it’s your job to stay on top of changes within the industry in order to understand how each of these diverse groups affects the development of your workplace. Diversity presents a number of opportunities, but there are always challenges as well!
Originally published: 18 February, 2009