July 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm #104604
I think of it as going way beyond one’s gender, race, etc. to things like personality and ways of processing information. Do you agree and if so should the EEO function be broadened accordingly?
July 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm #104622
At NRC, we generally agree that diversity refers to more than the more narrowl EEO definition…it encompasses relevant employee similarities and differences in types of knowledge, skill, ability, values, and manner of thought and behavior, as well as other ways people are classified (e.g. gender, race, disability, and military experience). Relevance is based on those factors potential impact on the perceptions, expectations and behavior of those who work in, and interact with, employees, stakeholders and customers in pursuit of its organizational goals.
July 2, 2010 at 1:18 pm #104620
That is very interesting. Can you share how NRC puts that into practice in a tangible way?
Also – how do you think organizations can promote a broader view of diversity without winding up labeling or stereotyping people and even giving someone an excuse to limit their opportunities for advancement?
July 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm #104618
I agree that diversity should go beyond the historical definitions, have some concerns that EEO should get involved in the process because of the current mindset (not saying it is right or wrong), in a lot of organizations, that EEO is primarily the group that investigates and punishes those leaders/managers who don’t “play by the rules”
July 2, 2010 at 2:59 pm #104616
Who has taught or taken a completely online course, where you don’t have photos of your students or instructor? I taught two online courses, EDT 520, Instructional Design for Educational Technology, for DeVry/Keller Graduate School. I didn’t know the race or ethnicity or age of my students. Other than their names, I wouldn’t have known their gender. Unless they had accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I didn’t know if they had a disability. I could have had a blind student using assistive technology, and unless that student was getting ADA accommodations to have extended time on assessments and assignments, I wouldn’t have known.
And just as an aside, as for names as identifiers of gender, how many women authors have used pseudonyms or their initials (J.K. Rowling, S.E. Hinton) to garner more respect and credibility with their readers? S.E. Hinton often wrote from the first person perspective of a working class or rural teenage boy.
The other concern about definitions of diversity is that society often changes what it means to be an adult, based on how this benefits society. Is it possible that because of competition in the workforce for jobs, we are extending adolescence and not giving younger people the opportunities to develop their skill set and to lead? Thomas Jefferson was 35 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther King, Jr. was about the same age when he delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963. Are there large numbers of 35-year-olds today given that level of trust or responsibility to write or draft a strategy or policy for their government agencies without a lot of management oversight? What about the returning veterans under the age of 30 who have been leaders in the field in OIF and OEF, and return to a civilian workplace where they may not have significant leadership roles?
July 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm #104614
Donna L. QuesinberryParticipant
The EEO’s understanding of diversity is already a “broad” definition – personality and processing can already be defined under the current definition – at least that’s always been my contention. The language could use a revisit since 1960 and 1992 –
“Diversity refers to 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 but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and job classification.”
Diversity as a concept focuses on a broader set of qualities than race and gender. In the context of the workplace, valuing diversity means creating a workplace that respects and includes differences, recognizing the unique contributions that individuals with many types of differences can make, and creating a work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees.
July 5, 2010 at 3:07 pm #104612
“Diversity” can ve viewed from multiple perspectives.
By its very name, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) adopts the principal perspective that diversity is mostly about facilitating equal access to jobs. That, in itself is not wrong, and is certainly admirable, but is not the whole story, is it?
One of the reasons one strives for diversity, especially in the public sector, is that the citizenry one provides services to, either directly, or indirectly, wants some assurance that the service provider reflects their needs and priorities. They may not be interested in such jobs for themselves, but they still get their services from that single provider. And part of the way one accomplishes that trust-building is by having a workforce that reflects the client community so that when people look at the service provider, they see themselves reflected in it and trust that it is thinking in their interest.
Another reason one aims for diversity, and is perhaps a little difficult to disentangle from the previous perspective, is that, as service provider, one wants the organization to be able to anticipate the needs and priorities of the client community. This would imply that not only does one aim to have the faces encountered at the service desk look like the full range of clients, but that the people making strategic decisions within the organization, at whatever level, be able to reflect the needs and priorities of the full client community. Naturally, they have to do so with competence. Your clients are responding not just to images and pictures of staff, but to an organization that appears, by its behaviour and thoughtfulness, to care about them, and competence is central to that.
These preceding two perspectives are certainly supported by the EEO view, but they are not necessarily produced or compelled by it.
It gets a little tricky, however, when one asks the question: “Do all employees have to BE a member of the various subgroups within the client community in order to foster trust, or be mindful of the needs?”. My own stance would be “No”. First, not all subgroups within the community will necessarily be visible. It would seem unreasonable to deliberately have stereotypic individuals working at the service-counter just to assure the GBLT community that the organization is gay-friendly. It would be similarly stupid to make sure you have someone wearing a dashiki, or someone with a lot of wrinkles just to assure the African-American or elderly communities that you have their needs in mind.
So what creates the impression that any member of the client community can walk into that public service outlet and feel like they will get a square deal from folks who will make an effort to understand them (assuming they don’t already)? I think that’s part of where the term “diversity” comes from. In other words, it doesn’t have to be a Noah’s ark, with one of everybody in plain sight, at every level of the organization. It just has to have enough diversity and variation to show that it thinks broadly, and can respond flexibly. One Asian or African face in a Caucasian ocean is unlikely to convey that.
Incorporating something like personality into one’s definition of “diversity” can also be tricky. Some portion of your client community will be narrow-minded, tightass, cognitively rigid types, prone to conspiracy theories of just about everything. Do you need to have someone like that in the organization, just to anticipate such clients? I suspect not, and I suspect this is not what Dannielle was implying in her query, either. More likely, what she meant was “diversity” as a way of thinking. In other words, from a selection perspective, one goes out in search of employees who DO think more broadly and flexibly, are at ease with adopting other perspectives, and spontaneously anticipate a range of other priorities. In other words, wise and caring employees.
“Diversity” implies not only access to jobs, providing a public face that instills trust, and decision-making that is thoughtful and inclusive, but a workplace that instills trust and inclusiveness amongst staff as well. The public may see diversity at the service-counter but the employee may not see it amongst their management team. Trust and inclusiveness within the organization is every bit as important as that between the organization and client community.
So, to get back to Dannielle’s original question, “…should the EEO function be broadened accordingly?”. Insomuch as the EEO function is principally concerned with access to jobs, it does not tend to the other stuff I’ve listed. Insomuch as addressing that would expand the mandate of the EEO function so much as to overlap with all other organizations at the federal, state, and muncipal levels tasked with assuring a quality workplace and capable workforce, there would be too much trampling of toes for my liking. Yes, “diversity” is much bigger than mere recruitment/assessment/selection/promotion practices, but the mandate of monitoring employment practices is so different from the rest of what “diversity” means as to make such a hypothetical expansion of mandate clumsy, in my view.
What one would hope for, however, would be that the EEO function does not operate in isolation, but in concert with whatever organizations/units tend to the other aspects of diversity.
July 6, 2010 at 1:59 am #104610
A diverse workforce spurs gains that go beyond retention and a feel-good work culture. But, diversity is more than being innovative by including different people from different backgrounds. Diversity extends beyond employees to entire internal and external human social networks. Even to ideas. Diversity goes hand in hand with fostering new ideas and new ways of thinking. Fresh, brilliant, new ideas from almost anyone (not just the so called talented, creative-minded types). Diversity is the way to move forward by pushing boundaries.
July 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm #104608
The EEO function was established to prevent Federal organizaitons from being sued on the basis of discrminiation against employees on the basis of age, disability, gender, race, religous, (?sexual preference? not sure about how to write that last one), etc. Agencies and their EEO offices are not concerned with whether people are introverts, city folk, etc because an agency can’t be sued for discrimination against those traits.
July 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm #104606
I agree with you, Dannielle. In my view, the value of diversity lies in having broad opportunities to entertain wide-ranging perspectives. A diversity of perspectives helps avoid groupthink and often leads to better outcomes. A group of individuals that looks diverse but thinks the same way might make decisions more quickly, but this doesn’t always add value.
Real diversity comes from diverse life experiences. There is research supporting the notion that groups of unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses working for a common cause are more likely to make good decisions and create value for their organization.
On a related topic, the EEOC broadened their scope last November to include Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which prohibits genetic information discrimination in employment.
“Under Title II of GINA, it is illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information. Title II of GINA prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions, restricts acquisition of genetic information by employers and other entities covered by Title II, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information.”
It is unclear how this new development will affect future discrimination claims, but it is safe to assume lawsuits will increase based on this broad (and currently untested) language.
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