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Diversity in the workplace

In today’s modern workplace, it is not uncommon for certain individuals or groups to feel excluded from their peers or potential job prospects. The term ‘Diversity’ is often considered to be the inclusion of both men and women, however the word is defined as “a range of different things”. This applies to the mix of religions, generations, abilities, and ethnicities, as well as just sex and gender. Diversity and inclusivity is a driving force behind any successful organisation. There are many benefits of having a variety of characters within a company, such as the provision of multiple points of view, and a larger talent pool. Although it is a slow process, the incorporation of Diversity into Australian organisations is becoming more common and more of a general standard, than an option. This is shown particularly in Tech and Finance companies like ANZ, NAB, AustralianSuper, and Telstra. Throughout this essay, the divisions and application of diversity, as well as techniques on how to implement the idea successfully, will be explored further.

Workplace Diversity Issues

With many CEOs and Managers coming from an older generation, ‘traditional’ and stereotypical belief systems tend to seep into a company’s culture. This can result in the rejection of job applicants or the animosity towards staff members belonging to minority groups. The main discriminatory factors that are considered when choosing who to hire can include their background, abilities (physical & mental), sexuality and of course, gender.

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When looking at somebody’s background, it is important to consider their race, religious values and the language they speak. Tensions can rise in a workplace when certain team members hold distaste for those of a different ethnicity to themselves. When an individual does not respect nor see eye-to-eye with another, ideas and beliefs can be easily disregarded, creating a hurdle in the decision making process of a company. Teams that do not gel together will have great difficulty in agreeing on important topics, resulting in the lack of productivity in the organisation. As well as the detrimental effects on business, mental health can become damaged when one is subjected to constant harassment and bullying in their work environment.

Different upbringings come with their own unique values and beliefs – Whether they are spiritual, political or cultural. It is important to have the power to push personal principles to the side in order to simply get the job done. Although these barriers may seem too difficult to overcome at times, there are three main solutions that many companies are leaning towards. In order to develop staff members into being more socially aware and accepting of one another, Diversity and Sensitivities Training programs, along with Language workshops for international staff are heavily encouraged. These methods, over time, are designed to help employees overcome negative feelings and grudges, and push themselves to focus on tasks rather than prejudice (Hood, 2019).

Gender Diversity in the Workplace

Aside from an individual’s cultural background, the most predominant example of diversity in the workplace, or lack there of, is gender. Gender Diversity is defined as “men and women hired at the same rate, paid equally for equal work, and promoted at the same rate” (Dr. Gray, 2018). Today’s business world is adapting slowly, however the issues surrounding gender still seem to stem from the outdated ideas of women being incapable of working and thriving. These issues can be broken down into the three main categories of Family Roles, The Glass Ceiling Theory, and the Gender Pay Gap. This essay will explore these ideas in more detail.

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Gender Diversity – ‘Family Roles’

Traditional and typically outdated family dynamics play a large part in the concerns of working women. It is stereotyped that the husband/father-figure is aimed to be the breadwinner for the family, whilst the mother is to stay at home to clean and care for the children. In present day, family dynamics are not so straightforward. There are increasing numbers of varying family types – Such as single parents, couples with no children, and single individuals with no kids.

In many cases, single mothers are forced to choose between their child and their career. This, of course, makes it difficult to support oneself and one’s family. To encourage women to re-enter the workforce after having children, many organisations are starting to adopt new policies such as flexible hours, parental leave with compensation, hotlines to help with post-partum stress, and even salary increases to help with the costs of raising a family (Michael Page team, 2017). Other organisations lean towards a more hands-on assistance, including the provision of crèche services and childcare. For example, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (or “KKR”) is a company that provides extended maternity leave, as well as nannies for any interstate or international business trips. Recognised as an “Equity Giant” by The Washington Post (2015), KKR has been commended for the efforts in making sure female staff feel supported and appreciated in the workplace, therefore being more likely to return.

Gender Diversity – ‘Glass Ceiling Theory’

Defined by Dr. Chevette Alston, the ‘Glass Ceiling’ is a metaphor for the invisible barrier that prevents an individual from achieving further success (2018). These barriers typically divide the ‘minority groups’ (women, LGBTQI members), and the ‘dominant culture’ (white males). The theory was coined in the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, was heavily used in conjunction with the term ‘Mommy Track’. This was based on the idea that women of ‘childbearing age’ would not be an asset to the company. They would have to split their time with raising their family, and therefore be unable to put all their energy into their assigned tasks. Despite the fact that in recent years, a total of 79% of women aspire to reach high-level management positions, the Glass Ceiling Theory is still maintained as a subtle form of discrimination and limitation (Devillard, S et al. 2014).

Gender Diversity – The Pay Gap

As well as the limitation of corporate success, the Glass Ceiling Theory has another damaging effect: the Gender Pay Gap. This gap is the difference in earnings of men and women, typically viewed as a percentage of the male income on a weekly basis. Unfair pay between the sexes occurs and varies all over the world for many different reasons, yet all indicate women will receive an overall lower pay rate. Women tend to earn approximately 85% of what a male on the same level would per year (Gaze, B, 2018). This can be due to the fact that high-level positions are generally reserved for male applicants, as they are thought to have more time to spend on the more arduous duties. Another dominant cause is the association with lower paying careers and their ‘feminine’ connotations. For example, nursing and teaching are thought to be more suited to female workers, as they require higher levels of tolerance and compassion (Gascoigne, n.d). These roles happen to pay far less than more ‘masculine’ and ‘rugged’ positions like engineering or construction.

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The Gender Pay Gap does affect some locations more than others. The Western Australia Pay Equity Team hosted a census in 2015, concluding that Western Australia’s gap sat at a dramatic 26.0%, the largest in the country. Although the difference in pay is still present in the current job scene, the gap is slowly closing. This progress started with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and since then, many methods of closing the gap have been introduced and trialed. Such include the compensation of underpaid staff upon realization, creating training programs for female employees, and consciously keeping job offers open to all male and female applicants. These systems can be slowly incorporated in conjunction with the three main Management Approaches: Affirmative Action, Valuing Diversity, and Managing Diversity.

Management Approaches

With growing levels of diverse workforces, it is more essential than ever for managers to satisfy the needs of minority workers. This form of management is the process of developing a work environment suited to everybody (Thomas, 2012). Employees in minority groups generally have one want, and that is to be recognized and appreciated for their talents. In order to keep up with the needs of such groups, team leaders must devise a system to push their staff to reach their full potential. These systems will be based on the Affirmative Action, Valuing Differences, and Managing Diversity approaches.

Management Approach: Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action is the first step towards diversity. As a result of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, this action was originally intended to provide equality between African Americans and Caucasian job applicants and students. However, over time, the idea has become applicable to many situations. This includes the provision of education and employment to women and all minorities (e.g. LGBTQI members, different ethnicities, all age groups, etc.).This step is done with the intention of increasing an organisation’s number of minority and female workers, creating a sense of acceptance and belonging for all people involved in the company.

Management Approach: Valuing Differences

The second stage of the process is done in order to educate and train. It is important for coworkers to understand and respect one another so that they can build positive relationships. This will help staff communicate freely with each other, resulting in a high level of productivity and improved morale. This education can be supplied via the introduction of workshops, teambuilding exercises, and group-based tasks.

Management Approach: Managing Diversity

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Lastly, the final approach is considered to be the ‘most inclusive’. This stage is based on the commitment to rearranging an organisation’s culture, in hopes of suiting it to its wider staff make-up. It is important to empower and include all members, whilst encouraging them to reach high for their goals. An organisation’s human resources hold so much potential, and the management of such a diverse talent pool is essential to success. A prime example of an Australian company executing diversity management is the airline QANTAS.

Diversity in QANTAS

Standing for the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, QANTAS has been named the 3rd “best” airline of the world for 2019 (Forbes Magazine, 2018). Founded in Winton, Queensland, in 1920, the airline has been recognised as an iconic and incredibly diverse company. The culture, policies and procedures of the organisation are based on three specific group beliefs:

• Optimal group outcome stems from inclusivity

• Everybody deserves respect, trust, and a good leader, and

• Simplicity and innovation are result of fitness, agility and diversity

According to the airline’s own website, the QANTAS team makes conscious efforts to offer employment to 6 main focus areas, paying special attention to gender. In attempt to recognise women and unacknowledged genders, QANTAS has launched the Nancy Bird Walton Program. Summarised, the program is the commitment to merit-based inclusivity. This has helped the brand to achieve their goal of having 35% of their senior leadership positions filled by women. This number has been predicted to reach a total of 38% by 2021 (QANTAS Team, 2018). Another example of women-oriented goals would be their desire to reach a 40% intake of female pilots by 2028.

The support and promotion of diversity is encouraged by a ‘Reward and Recognition Program’. This includes the option for employees to cast votes for a peer they believe deserves to be acknowledged. Along with this, culture-focused training programs are offered to those struggling to cope with the differences. The success of such methods is tested annually through analyses of staff retention and turnover rates, as well as annual employee surveys.

QANTAS’ position in the market allows for great global exposure. The airline is known internationally and observed by many. By implementing such strong public values for inclusivity, there is no denying in the fact that the company is setting a standard for many large and small-scale businesses to meet in the future.

Conclusion

In summary, given the provided definitions and examples of diversity, it is apparent that contemporary employers are becoming more adaptive to change. The discussion of minority group employment is ever growing, thus must be acted upon and recognised as a valid societal need. With many relative management approaches being implemented by high-profile organisations, discrimination and workplace prejudices are less prevalent than previous years. Legislations, policies, and general benevolence are all factors in eliminating derogatory attitudes towards women and other scrutinized communities. Although there is progress to be made with issues such as the Gender Pay Gap, equality in the workplace can be seen as far more achievable than it has before.

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