The Ethics of Diversity
DTMT07 – Renaissance Center
BUS 401 – Business Ethics and Values
Professor Thomas John Elliot
December 12, 2005
This paper briefly describes the importance and the influence of the ethics of diversity.
The Ethics of Diversity
“To be a slave was to have nothing but still have something left to lose.” (Tademy, 2001) In the case of slavery, the morality existed that the “ends justified the means”. Both, teleological and deontological theories validated slavery. Slowly, Americans realized the sick and immoral reality of slavery. “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. (Martin Luther King Jr., 1964) Many of us only consider diversity in the terms of black and white. However, diversity comprises a much broader definition:
Diversity is ‘otherness’, or those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups. It is important to distinguish between the primary and secondary dimensions of diversity. Primary dimensions are the following: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race and sexual orientation. Secondary dimensions of diversity are those that can be changed, and include, but are not limited to: educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, and work experiences”. (University of Maryland, 1995) Diversity is morally correct. The future of corporations and society mandates the embracing and necessity of ethical diversity.
After the elimination of slavery, Americans fought the fight against discrimination in the laws, the arm forces, workplace, and housing, etc. Effective leaders realize the importance and necessity of a diverse society and workforce. Leaders and managers must incorporate diversity by adjusting past philosophy on diversity and valuing everyone while recognizing the differences that each group brings to the organization. “Diversity, if positively managed, can increase creativity and innovation in organizations as well as improve decision making by providing different perspectives on problems”. (Robbins, 2003, pg 8)
The laws that eliminated discrimination in society were enacted in 1964. At the time, the majority of American household was headed by white men. White men typically earned more than any other group. In addition, married men earned more money than married women or single people. The defense of this pay inequity was that the head of the household had greater responsibilities, a wife and children to support. Sadly, today a great number of American households are headed by single adults, mostly females. Moreover, today’s society is much more diverse.
Rosen et al. (2000) remind us that if the world were a village of 100 people, there would be 56 Asians, 21 Europeans, 9 Africans, 8 South Americans, and 6 North Americans. There would be 30 Christians, 18 Moslems, 13 Hindus, 6 Buddhists, 5 animists, and 21 without any religion. (Tubbs, 2004, pg 96) However, the pay inequity remains unjust. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was amended as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The act prohibits employers from discrimination on account of sex in wages.
Diversity in organizations provides opportunities to reach every segment of the population. The benefits of diversity extends beyond the board members and stockholder but to the employees and the community by bestowing the wealth of creativity, productivity, and problem solving initiatives only offered by an eclectic group.
However, the increase in workplace diversity remains primarily in the lower positions in the organizational hierarchy. The need for diverse executives and board members still lack in comparison to the workforce. According to Chicago United’s Corporate Diversity Profile 2004, the challenge still exists for the representation of minorities on Boards in relation to the minorities in the workforce for Chicago companies and Fortune’s diversity leaders. In Chicago; 85% of all inside directors are White, 9% are African American, 4% are Hispanic, and 2% are others; 84% of all directors are white, 10% are African American, 3% are Hispanic, and 2% are others. In Fortune’s Diversity Leaders, 87% of inside directors are white, 13% others, 78% of all directors are white, 15% are African American, and 7% are others.
The influx of corporate scandals such as but not limited to Enron, WorldCom, and AIG have increased the public’s distrust of corporate executives. The groupthink attributed to the elite Caucasian male contributed to the recent scandals. In an effort to regenerate the public’s trust, corporations are utilizing more women in their organizations.
However, previous studies suggest two conclusions concerning gender and leadership. “First, the similarities between men’s and women’s leadership styles tend to outweigh the differences. Second, what differences there are seem to be that women prefer a democratic leadership style, whereas men feel more comfortable with a directive style”. (Robbins, 2003, pg 139) Women tend to support participation, sharing information and power, and encourage follower’s self-actualization. Also, women rely on expertise and influence to lead their followers.
Corporations are designed to provide a service or a product and produce profits. Organizations realize that good business practice cause for a representation of the community and the marketplace. Women greatly influence businesses.
One recent study finds women now represent 47% of the U.S. workforce in total, including 52% of all financial managers and 59% of all accountants and auditors. In addition, women purchase 81% of all goods and services in the U.S., own 38% of all U.S. firms, and make up 47% of all investors. Thus, the study concludes, ‘It makes good business sense to have women on the board because they represent your customers, investors, and employees; they bring different perspectives to the table; and there is an increasing pool of experienced women available.” (Dickman, 2003, pg 19) Equal pay for equal work is morally and legally justified. It is essential to focus on the similarities rather than the differences. Nurturing Diversity
In 2003, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the necessity of diversity in our educational facilities. The University of Michigan and General Motors readily defended the importance of diversity in our society.
In General Motors’ experience, only a well educated, diverse workforce, comprising people who have learned to work productively and creatively with individuals from a multitude of races and ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds, can maintain America’s competitiveness in the increasingly diverse and interconnected world economy. (Gurin and Lehman and Lewis, 2004, pg 190) Retired military officers wrote a brief in support of the University of Michigan stance on diversity, expressing the difficulties that hampered the military effectiveness when African-American and White officers has communication conflicts. Group cohesiveness depends greatly on shared missions, values and goals. The flow of communication greatly attributes to group cohesiveness. The retired officers expressed the opinion that the almost exclusively white officer’s corps was not aware of the impact of racial discrimination on the enlisted personnel. A diverse workplace needs diverse leadership. Managing Diversity Managers are critical to diversity. It is imperative for managers to establish and promote practices and procedures that treat all employees equitable, fair, and legal. Diversity will not succeed if management does not sincerely implement or are not committed to providing a diverse workplace from top to bottom. It is the manager’s duty to ensure that neither large nor small discrepancies exist in the treatment of all employees in the organization. Fair and equitable practices are implemented through distributive and procedural justice.
Distributive justice is “a moral principle calling for the distribution of pay raises, promotions, and other organizational resources to be based on meaningful contributions that individuals have made and not on personal characteristics over which they have no control”. (Jones and George, 2003, pg 127) Procedural justice is “a moral principle calling for the use of fair procedures to determine how to distribute outcomes to organizational members”. (Jones and George, 2003, pg 127)
Managers must convey the message of how important diversity is to the organization. Managers must increase diversity awareness through communication, training, revealing biases and stereotypes, focusing on our similarities, and understanding our differences. Racial, gender, age, and physical limitations are the most visible signs of diversity. Sexuality, religion, geographic, and social-economics disparities are less noticeable areas of diversity. Although, diversity is difficult to management, it is manageable. We all benefit from diversity. “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream”. (Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964)
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