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October 23, 2006
Simple Steps to Support Workplace Diversity

Diversity is about building a stronger, more competitive organization. The workplace, like the nation and wider world, is made up of men and women of diverse racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, with varied lifestyles and approaches to life. Instead of trying to make everyone fit one mold, diversity acknowledges people's differences and works with those differences to create a fairer and more productive workplace. The notion of diversity integrates awareness of, and respect for, differences into the way people communicate and interact. It also makes your organization more responsive to the continually changing demands of the global marketplace by drawing on the cultures, talents, and ideas of a broader group of people. In short, diversity in the workplace:

  • Encourages new ideas and perspectives
  • Includes all employees as equals
  • Ensures fairness within the organization and work group
  • Respects differences and makes them work for the organization
  • Allows us to harness the strength provided by the combined talents and perspectives of all employees
  • Makes all employees feel as though they are equal contributing members of the work team
  • Creates a more inclusive, productive environment

A diverse workplace is a reflection of our changing world. The organizations that best manage diversity are going to be the winners in the 21st century.

Why It Matters...
  • Figures from the most recent U.S. census show that almost a third of the workforce is currently made up of minorities. Of this number, more than 10 percent is made up of people aged 55 or over, and almost half is made up of women.
  • The Census Bureau estimates that in 2020, minorities will make up over 40 percent of the workforce, and workers aged 55 and over will account for a larger percentage.
  • By 2050, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that minorities will approach 50 percent of the American workforce, and the number of workers aged 55 and over will jump to almost 20 percent.
  • As America's workforce changes, so will yours.

Point out that we're all different in some way. Remind employees that diversity has many dimensions. For example:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnic heritage
  • National origin
  • Skin color
  • Family status
  • Mental or physical abilities
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Regional origin
  • Generation
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Work experience
  • Work style

Encourage workers to embrace diversity.

Teach employees how they can help create and support a fair and diverse workplace. Here are some simple steps individuals at all levels in your organization can take to support workplace diversity:

  • Be aware of and try to correct personal biases.
  • Remember that "different" is a neutral term--it doesn't mean better or worse.
  • Let co-workers know how you feel when they joke about or put down others.
  • Reach out and invite people to join you.
  • Get to know people from other cultures and share stories about your heritage and theirs (you may be surprised to find many common interests in addition to the differences).
  • Be flexible and willing to try different, perhaps unfamiliar, approaches.
  • Deal with conflicts right away instead of carrying grudges.
  • Recognize each person as an individual with something important to offer the organization.
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