Diversity Training – What’s missing?
Pennsylvania State University
May 2nd, 2014
Diversity is all around any given workplace at all times in all things. People in the world differ in many ways. People in the workplace are no different. From color to gender, from age to sexual orientation – no one person is ever the same. There is no hiding the fact that people are different. Often times, differences are intimidating for people. Even more often, because of lack of information, those fears turn into discrimination. Workplace discrimination is a global phenomenon. Discrimination claims often range from issues involving gender and age, to culture and religion, if only to name a few. Because of fear of the unknown or because of unwillingness to change, many people see diversity as a burden, one that should not be tolerated. But this viewpoint is, in its very being, discrimination itself. So what can an employer do to combat this negative way of thinking? The answer for so many organizations struggling with this topic is easy: diversity training. But, is diversity training really the answer or is there something more needed to do away with discrimination once and for all?
What is Diversity Training?
Webster’s dictionary defines discrimination as, “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.”(Webster) When companies deal with discrimination due to prejudice against a certain subgroup of the population, often times they feel educating the masses on the importance of the differences they are experiencing may be helpful. Enter: Diversity training. “Diversity training is defined as a distinct set of programs aimed at facilitating positive intergroup interactions, reducing prejudice and discrimination, and enhancing the skills, knowledge, and motivation of people to interact with diverse others.” (Pendry) Diversity training is usually an instructional class which intends to increase participants’ knowledge and awareness skills of other cultures by including different identity groups and teaching about unfamiliar culture. The diversity class itself may be pre-empted by an event or by a company culture that promotes discrimination or negative views about certain cultural sub groups. However, it’s possible than an organization merely wants to educate its associates about other groups as well. Regardless of reason, diversity training seeks to encourage a previously unseen viewpoint and boost inclusion of all people in every aspect of the workplace, no matter what religion, sex or age.
History of a Changing Workforce: Need for Diversity Training In the late 1800s and early 1900s there was an influx of immigrants into the United States. Many of these immigrants fought for coveted jobs in the coal, steel and finance industries. In the United States, post war 1950 was a much different age than the early 1900s. During wartime, women went to work to support their families and the troops. When the men returned from war and re-entered the working world again, many women chose to stay in the workforce instead of return to the homes. Often times they were under paid, overlooked for positions and discriminated against even though they were much more qualified. Unfair treatment continued until the passage of the civil rights act in 1964. The new laws gradually began to improve working conditions but threatened white male counterparts. (Milkman) By the early 1970’s, more employment laws were passed to help govern the rights of women and minorities that would force organizations to diversify. Minorities and women were spread across America in corporate positions rarely ever held by any other group outside of white males. The integration movement that was meant to incorporate and include began to breed tension and resentment amongst the male workforce. Hostile workplaces were common and turnover increased...
References: 2014 Webster’s dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discrimination
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