Diversity is a fact of American and International business and is a broader, more complex issue than one might initially believe. A universally vital element of global commerce, Diversity has spawned an abundance of theorists, journals and specialists, some of whom are encountered in this composition. Addressing the remarkable breadth and complexity of Diversity, this essay reviews: the nature of Diversity; legally protected classes within the United States; aspects of Diversity that fall outside the scope of U.S. legal protections; the benefits of Diversity for employers; the differences/challenges presented by Diversity for employers; general business adjustments/accommodations for Diversity; and suggested specific business adjustments/accommodations for Diversity. Though this work cannot exhaustively address all aspects of Diversity, it is meant to give a good overview of modern businesses' Diversity issues and possible solutions.
Nature of Diversity:
"Diversity" involves legally protected classes of people but also involves other classes of people who are not specifically protected by U.S. Law. As Tillery and Rutledge state, "Diversity is also a broadly conceptualized term, used in multiple ways. It can be used to categorize differences in thought, actions, beliefs, value sets, needs as well as groupings codified by race, gender, age, skin-color, educational levels or other attributes" (Tillery & Rutledge, 2009, p. 36). Consequently, in order to discuss Diversity, this paper will discuss the legally protected classes and the other assorted groups that a company must address.
Legally protected classes in the U.S.:
Normally when we think of Diversity, we think of classes protected by the Federal and State Laws of America. Edward Powers sets them out, saying, "The purpose of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) was to eliminate all of the workplace barriers that result in discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. Age was added as a 'protected class' in 1967 by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and in 1990, disability was included by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)" (Powers, 2009, p. 49). These legally protected classes pose challenges and opportunities for American business, as they become increasingly important in the business community. The aging workforce, for example, is becoming a fact of business that all businesses, including American business, must realistically face and accommodate. As Howard and Ulferts state, "The number of young people entering the workforce over the next few decades will be considerably fewer than the number of people retiring. The result will be a decline in the workforce in many countries, which will probably start happening around 2014. As fewer young people join the workforce, recruiting will become more difficult. Employers will have to create more flexible working arrangements to retain older employees. Americans over 50 make up 35% of the nation's population, and have 77% of the financial assets and 57% of the discretionary income. This coupled with the proportion of the workforce over 45 in the next decade will force employers to reexamine how they are going retain and accommodate the ageing population so not to lose that level of experience in the workforce" (Howard & Ulferts, 2007, p. 7). Another example of a rising protected class in the workforce is employees with disabilities, not only in the classic sense of "disability" but also due to aging. According to Howard and Ulferts, "One in five people are living with a long-term impairment and/or disability... An individual with a disability is a person that has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities/functions...As people age, they are likely to experience changes that may affect hearing, vision, cognition and mobility. While older adults may not think of themselves as having disabilities, they often seek out businesses that accommodate the changes they have experienced" (Howard & Ulferts, 2007, p. 8). Though only aging and disability have been mentioned, the classes of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin also pose new opportunities and challenges for business.
Additional aspects of Diversity:
In addition to protected classes, U.S. businesses work in a shrinking Globe in which worldwide business is a fact. As Akbari stated, there are three factors involved in successful global business: "the exponential rate of increase in the presence, use and impact of globalization, Internet and Communication technologies on our everyday lives and experiences. These three, combined with the increasing pace and Diversity of the populations immigrating to the western industrial societies, have already forced all fields, including management, to begin a process of developing new competencies for the present and future managers" (Akbari, 2008, p. 57). This globalization of business "forces" U.S. businesses to deal with people whose cultures, languages and customs are as varied as all the countries on the Planet. That global nature of business is another element of Diversity. Consequently, it is no longer smart business to stick with uniquely-American ideas, customs and ways of doing business.
Another element of Diversity that is touched on but not completely addressed by U.S. laws against age discrimination is the fact that businesses must now deal with four generations of U.S. workers. Comperatore and Nerone identify these four generations: "Veterans or Radio Babies as they are sometimes called were born between the years of 1925 and 1945. Baby Boomers are the people born between 1946 and 1964. Generation X'ers were born between 1965 and 1981, and Gen Y'ers, also called the Millennium Generation and Echo Boomers were born between 1982 and 2000" (Comperatore & Nerone, 2008, p. 15) As Comperatore and Nerone observe, "For the first time in American history, corporations are challenged with managing four generations of employees at once, each with different values, expectations, and attitudes" (Comperatore & Nerone, 2008, p. 15). Dealing with four generations of workers with different values, expectations and goals is another aspect of Diversity and has become a fact of U.S. business.
Benefits of Diversity to Employers:
It is widely acknowledged among business scholars that embracing general Diversity results in profitability. Analyzing the effects of business, Treven and Treven point out that "companies with employees who systematically embrace Diversity tend to be more profitable than those that allow discrimination to occur" (Treven & Treven, 2007, p. 36). In addition, while exploring several arguments for Diversity, McMahon points out the simple "business case" for Diversity: "the view that more Diversity would increase performance effectiveness - is gaining momentum because of talent shortage and an increasingly diverse customer base" (McMahon, 2010, p. 41). Discussing the reasons for business success created by Diversity, Kaifi and Aslami believe, "Organizations that have a diverse population are able to serve a wider range of customers," and "Organizational culture can easily influence an organization's success" (Kaifi & Aslami, 2009, p. 33). Individual groups of employees also bring unique benefits to employers. For example, the protected class of disabled employees brings unique benefits to businesses that embrace Diversity. According to research, these two classes benefit employers due to employee loyalty, attendance, education, experience, qualifications, tax benefits, a positive public image and the financially significant status of their class (Howard & Ulferts, 2007, p. 9). Most scholars apparently believe that there are many benefits to Diversity, including but not limited to those presented by disabled workers.
At this point, it should be mentioned that not all scholars agree about Diversity's benefits. Charles Domina, a lawyer writing for the Journal of Diversity Management, believes that Diversity has always been a fact of business and that the new emphasis on differences rather than likenesses hurts business. Challenging most scholars' positive assessment of Diversity in the workplace, Domina states, "Will corporate America… allow itself to become caught up in the tides and currents of social engineering and theories based on empty platitudes which never have carried those who rode them to any positive or worthwhile destination? Perhaps business should get out of the business of Diversity and concentrate on the business of conducting business. If it does that and does it well, all the rest will follow" (Domina, 2011, p. 8). Domina clearly has little or no use for the current emphasis on Diversity. However, according to research, Domina is definitely in the minority.
Differences/Challenges of Diversity for Employers:
Though most scholars agree that Diversity brings great benefits for business, many sources also cite differences and challenges posed by Diversity. Though these cannot be exhaustively discussed in a paper, some of those differences and challenges will be addressed. One general difficulty is the attitude of some businesspeople, such as Domina, who believe that Diversity consists of empty platitudes that actually harm business (Domina, 2011, p. 8). A second general problem for Diversity is longstanding societal prejudice that makes the inclusiveness of Diversity difficult: "Many of the stereotypical views in cultures are deep-seated and enduring. They are part of the history that people have experienced, both shared and as a result of conflict. They are part of traditions that have been perpetuated. Even the offensive humor that is investigated by Human Resource Managers is something that is embedded in the behavior of people and…