Updated: Sep 8, 2021
The term “diversity” is by no means a new term in today’s social climate. Whether it is in communities, schools, the workforce, or government, diversity has become a persistent and necessary construct in hopes of ensuring the best and most inclusive daily practices. Diversity, in a broad sense refers to the assembling of different things, different topics. When diversity is considered in regard to social settings those “things” are age, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disabilities, et cetera.
People are often broken down and categorized by their differences as well as their similarities. It has been shown that similarities can be as important as differences. People who appear alike are still very different as you peel back the layers. Even if they are the same race, have the same socio-economic background, and are the same gender, they will have other differences that will result in differing opinions and results in their actions. They will respond differently to the same stimuli.
Intersectionality, provides a basis from which an understanding can be gained about a person’s blend of social identities and how they help or hinder one’s being and interactions. Intersectionality, takes into account that a person, especially a woman, can be privileged or oppressed for one or more of their social identities simultaneously. This does not discount that they can be oppressed for some of their social identities in one setting and privileged by them in another. One of the pitfalls to intersectionality is the possibility of stereotyping specific identity groupings. Therefore, vigilance and candor must be exercised to ensure these types of implicit biases are not inferred.
Cultural or workforce diversity will open organizations to the similarities and differences brought in by its people. These similarities and differences within the community or organization will have to be managed, regardless of tolerance, acceptance, or understanding. What will be key to the future success of affirmative action is how well the inherent opportunities and struggles of inclusive organizations are managed. This will depend upon the policies and procedures that are put into place and how they are implemented.
Organizational change will be necessary as society continues to evolve affirmative action in a positive manner. It has been observed by sociologists and psychologists that people tend to reject newly implemented guidelines and continue to follow the old routines, they continue to work towards the old goals making formal change hard. Dismantling the old ways can be tricky as they gained value over time and it is natural for people to resist change. To ensure change happens someone must be responsible for establishing the necessary goals, creating the resources, and assessing the overall progress toward the goals. Making sure there is a form of oversight for the organizations change will be critical to the progress of the affirmative action plan.
To help better facilitate lasting and effective affirmative action, behavioral change will be necessary. Behavioral change is a way to reduce biases both implicit and explicit, especially through education and feedback. Given people’s inclination to make associations between categories and concepts, stereotyping is almost a natural response, cognitively speaking. When implicit connections are made between social identities it reinforces the existing inequality. Education through diversity training can help to build tolerance, acceptance, and understanding, breaking down perceived stereotypes, and reinforcing the differences of the individuals as themselves and other. Performance evaluations can be used to gain feedback on the effectiveness of diversity trainings and help to curtail the programs as necessary.
There are potential adverse effects to affirmative action. Examples of this are reverse discrimination and the belief diverse groups are less coherent and communicate less effectively thus diminishing productivity and progress of the organization. However, by an organization valuing cultural or workplace diversity the implied need for the minority to assimilate to the beliefs of the majority can be brought to an end. Valuing diversity is both fiscally and communally the right move for an organization and its members. The richness in design and perspective that diversity offers an organization can be more beneficial to progress than relying on the same homogeneous ideas of the majority. Companies that value diversity and adhere to affirmative action plans, more readily, find alternative solutions and creative ideas to solving increasingly challenging problems.
Affirmative action is not easily implemented in most organizations. To fully embrace diversity is not to be seen as turning a blind eye to difference or promoting a level of tolerance for those differences. Affirmative action is not the latest trend in society, it needs to be a primary focus for success. Diversity, applied through affirmative action is a chance to advance and apply all of the resources available to an organization for the benefit of the organization and its members or employees.
When an organization takes responsibility and values diversity it can successfully instill affirmative action practices. When members or employees of the organization feel they are heard and appreciated for their individual strengths they are more productive and expressive with ideas. There is less conflict between members or employees in diverse organizations because there is a level of understanding between each other, whether it is learned or inherent. When there is a greater understanding among members and employees there is a deeper level of teamwork and a greater sense of commitment to the goal of the organization as well as a commitment to the organization by its members or employees.