Diversity in the workplace | Online DegreesOur director stood before the group to announce a new diversity initiative from corporate headquarters. "If two candidates possessed equal qualifications and experience and one was a white male and the other an underrepresented minority," he said clumsily, "we would hire the minority."

A gasp of shock went up from the group, which consisted of people of Ethiopian, Egyptian, Korean, Italian, Jewish, Danish, Hispanic, West Indian, Filipino, Irish, and German descent, male and female. A woman raised her hand. "Why does it matter whether they are a minority or not?" she demanded. Others nodded in agreement.

Struggling to recover, the director said, "Studies show that diversity is good for business. It brings in fresh ideas and perspectives. Companies do best when the ethnic makeup of their workforce closely mirrors that of the population they serve."

Eyes rolled. Arms folded across chests. Sighs of dissatisfaction issued from group members like steam from geysers. The director finished his presentation about how the company was so excited to start recruiting more diverse faces and about how the company would be changing its hiring practices to bring in more diversity and its management training program to promote more minorities. He stopped just short of asking everyone to bring in their brown and black friends for a special referral bonus.

This situation raised some of the key issues about corporate America’s clumsy obsession with diversity that has bloomed in the last decade.

Research aside, no self-respecting minority wants to be hired on the basis of their color. Decades ago, the Civil Rights movement pushed for equality for all Americans regardless of skin color, race, etc. Minorities just want to be seen as people. Thus, when a corporate manager leans down and tells them he wants to hire them because their race or skin color will improve the bottom line, minorities get a little offended. Minorities want to be hired for the same reason that everyone else is, for their technical knowledge, past job performance, education, etc.

On the other side, Caucasian males begin to feel the pinch of reverse discrimination. After all, it doesn’t seem fair that they should miss out on a promotion because a Hispanic female is also in the running. It’s not fair that they should be turned down for a job because an African-American male, who is no more qualified than they are, was born black. No, diversity is not fair. It has moved from excluding one ethnic group to excluding another. In the abstract, is diversity in the workplace a good thing? Sure. It would be wonderful if every workplace in America could reflect the rich mix of cultures and races that this country has to offer. Employees would be better informed, more open to revolutionary ideas. Companies would be able to identify and take advantage of new markets with more ease.

This current incarnation of affirmative action or diversity or whatever buzzword you choose, however, simply views minorities as an input to accomplish an end. It falsely supposes that if you just throw a Hispanic into Process A it will automatically produce Item B. Such a human resources policy is insulting to both Caucasian males and their minority counterparts.

Instead of using such a policy, companies would do well to take a broader, more enlightened, organic approach to diversifying their workforce. Instead of collecting members of different ethnic groups, companies should focus on eliminating racial bias in recruiting and promoting. They should focus on training hiring managers to eliminate race and color altogether from their vision and to see only those candidate qualities that matter to the job itself.

This would not be an easy task. Centuries of categorization and stereotyping, much of it subconscious, create this almost uncontrollable urge to form impressions of people without knowing a thing about them. Corporate America, however, must find a viable training solution to eliminate this habit among its managers. Artificial and, let’s face it, disingenuous efforts like the current diversity craze will only incur dangerous backlash from those who suffer because of it.

About the author

Marcus Varner earned his BA in English from Brigham Young University with a Creative Writing emphasis. He is currently in his second year at BYU’s lauded MBA program studying Marketing. He blogs, writes fiction and screenplays, loves movies, and can’t resist playing superheroes with his kids.

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