Diversity is the mosaic of people who bring a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and belief to a group with which they are to interact. Diversity is a variation in ideas, opinion, cultural and ethnical background, style, values, and beliefs. Diversity is very essential in the portfolio of any organization or team that seeks optimum performance. The best form of learning is by learning from people with diverse ideas and methods of reasoning.
Diversity is important in a team, because there will be more than enough idea and skill pool, which the team can benefit from when carrying out assignments and activities. Most people think of it simply as differences in race, nationality, or gender, but true diversity encompasses these attributes along with differences in opinions, ideologies, and interests, among other things. People tend to reflect on diversity as simply demographic, a matter of race, gender or age. However, groups can be disparate in many ways.
Diversity also is based on informational differences, reflecting a person’s education and experience, and on values or goals that can influence what one perceives to be the mission of something as small as a single meeting or as large as a whole company. Diversity among employees can create better performance when it comes to creative tasks such as product development or cracking new markets. Managers have been trying to increase diversity to achieve the benefits of innovation and fresh ideas. Over the years, corporations and fortune 500 companies embraced diversity.
They pushed diversity to the fore-front and embarked on campaigns to recruit, train and retain a diversified work force. The essential ingredients of performance in the workplace in the United States have always been teams and team-work. Companies built their teams in such a way that it always included people with diverse backgrounds, opinions and culture. Diversity within these teams brought about higher success rates in activities and projects because the team were able to pull ideas, strengths, knowledge and resources from a wider range of intellectual capital.
The study of diversity in the workplace has taken on new importance as changing economics prompt many companies to restructure themselves into flatter, more decentralized entities. The result is that today’s corporations are built around groups that must find answers to novel and complicated business issues. These teams bring together diverse groups of people who incorporate a variety of backgrounds, ideas and personalities. Large corporations like JPMorgan Chase, Exxon-Mobil, General Electric, Ford Motor Company, American Express Company, Wells Fargo & Company, Washington Mutual Inc.
, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs were often honored for distinguishing themselves with first in class diversity initiatives in the Financial Services Industry. First the housing market collapsed; which impacted the financial markets; which impacted the stock market. On September 14, 2008, the financial industry held its breath as it watched the fall and death of Wall Street. Lehman Brothers collapsed; Merrill Lynch was sold to bank Of America. What followed was a veritable redrawing of the industrial map: Former cornerstones of the nation’s economy filed for bankruptcy or merged with larger companies to stay afloat.
As the mergers are finalized, the new fear within the industry is not so much whether the companies will survive, but will the employees? “Regarding hiring, everybody will be affected,” said Carlos Orta, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility. Carlos Orta knew everybody will be hurt, but his fears were the impact the freeze and layoffs will have on Hispanics. In all, the financial industry is thought to have lost more than 3000,000 jobs since the crisis started. Mr.
Orta predicts that the restructuring of the financial industry will force it to focus more on diversity, because its customers will hold them accountable. He said that JPMorgan, which is now essentially a bank, will have to deal with banking issues. This will be a shock to their system because they don’t subscribe to diversity and never have, he said. The impact the financial crises will have on diversity in the workplace has been the subject of several discus and forums in the last couple of months. The discussion was part of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
’s 12th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit. The panel “The Economic Crisis on Diversity and Diversity Initiatives” explored the economy’s impact on women and people of color in the cooperate world. Many of the panelists weighed whether women and people of color have been disproportionately affected by downsizing due to the weak economy. Diversity in large corporations is definitely hard hit by the financial crisis. In recent years advocacy groups have pushed up the number of blacks and other traditionally underrepresented minorities being hired and promoted by financial firms.
This current economic crisis has impacted every sector of the U. S. economy . During tough economic times; organizations are forced to focus on their “core business”. Projects and Initiatives such as diversity that reside in their support area may be delayed or cut often with trepidation about the potential impact delay will have on efforts to build an inclusive culture. Now, as financial firms and other companies downsize or disappear, many of those hired through diversity initiatives have been losing their jobs.
As companies trim their workforce and cut costs to weather a faltering economy, women and minorities brace as they bare the possible brunt of the layoffs. Subha Barry, managing director of global diversity and inclusion at Merrill Lynch said that most of her firms’ diversity initiatives were tied to increasing revenue. In the words of Barbara Thomas, president and CEO of the National Black MBA “ As we all know, when anything goes wrong in this country, black employees are hit harder than most other races” . She also stated that, When America gets a cold, black America gets pneumonia.
Diversity hiring in the finance and insurance industries has been on the upswing in recent years. Some people opine that the actual effect on diversity when companies merge or downsize will likely vary according to the companies’ layoff and retention policies. Thomas said the Black MBA organization has been trying to refocus on industries less affected by the financial crisis: health care and biotech, global media and entertainment, energy, and food and beverages. The association she says, has been encouraging its members to pursue these industries.
Yvonne Hart, associate director of MBA student programming at the Robert Toigo Foundation, which awards fellowships to minority students at business schools, said her organization has been keeping a close eye on how the financial crisis is affecting minority students. “We always have concerns about that, and definitely those concerns have intensified over the past 12 months” Hart said her organization has changed its programming in response to the recent turmoil of the past two weeks, adding six sector-focused Web seminars on navigating industries other than investment banking and intensified interview and mentorship guidance.
The group also held a town hall-style conference call meeting last week, in which four professionals from the investment banking industry spoke to 130 minority business school students considering careers in finance, giving them insights and career tips on how to move forward in the new financial landscape. It’s not just racial minorities who are concerned. When word broke of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy filing, the Forte Foundation, which encourages female MBA candidacies, sent out an e-mail to all the women in their database, reminding them of the career resources the group offers.
Apart from the direct impact of layoffs, diversity advocates fear many financial firms will eliminate or cut back human resources or diversity programs. Most industries are already seeing the departure of some top diversity advocates and there are worries that there will be more to come in the next few months. It’s more that the people that are leaving are the ones who were around for years and knew the corporationa and really got what diversity was about. There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny at these companies.
If they keep pulling staff, they can’t always justify keeping the programs and partnerships they are supporting. Also at stake is continued corporate sponsorship of diversity organizations. For instance, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, an organization that trains black, Hispanic, and Native American young people for business leadership positions, lists insurance giant American International Group and investment banks Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs as among their corporate sponsors. It is pertinent to note that two of their sponsors have ceased to be in existence.
In conclusion, it is evident the concept of diversity will continue to be an intricate aspect of the business environments of today and in the future. Organizations must embrace and understand the importance of diversity in order to remain competitive, respond to globalization and promote innovation and productivity within its organization. Strong commitment and leadership will provide the necessary cultural atmosphere that promotes an inclusive environment. Training, education and effective communication will help execute strong change management practices. The rationale for understanding and managing diversity has never been stronger.
As new possibilities and opportunities in the business environment arise, the need for diversity programs will be the key to successful organizations of the future. The world today is more diverse than ever before. Our ethnicity, religion, life experiences and all other personal attributes make us unique individuals. We all need to learn to accept what is different from us and more importantly respect it. In this environment, companies are going to have to be very, very savvy and very smart in terms of maintaining talent in their pipeline that is not just white males and even white females.
They need to continually maintain a diversified workforce. There has been no report or research that has proved that diversity initiatives in large corporations is in part responsible for the current financial turmoil the economy is in If you want to really be ahead of the curve in your workforce, you have to pay attention to demographics. The pessimist in me says that diversity will slip down the agenda, for most firms, because in tough times business executives could be tempted to fall back on old, familiar practices rather than introducing innovative new ones.
But there was also an optimistic way of looking at things, if companies were going to have to shed staff to cope with the crisis, what better time to restructure their operations so that workforces are more diverse. Since the financial crisis is forcing companies to reassess their core values and part of this process would involve a greater commitment to diversity. With a more diverse mix, companies will become a more wholesome organization which will herald new ways of doing business, post-financial crises era.
Companies should embark on mundane diversity initiatives, with programs which will help recruit and retain minorities. Once hired, promotion policies that encourage diversity will ensure the best people get to top management positions, and these will stir these companies to paths of success and profitability. Despite all of the economic turmoil facing the workforce or even because of the turmoil there is a need for large corporations to maintain a strong focus on diversity. There has been no time better that now to invest smartly in diversity.