Human capital is one of the most fundamental aspects in contemporary organizations and it determines the outcome of productivity or organizational success significantly.
The modern world of human resource management seems to have changed significantly and as policies and regulations change, the need to reconsider workplace gender equity and diversity has received considerable attention across organizations (Herring, 2009). Human resource management is currently facing substantial challenges pertaining to employee gender equity and diversity that workplace reforms take as means of integrating fairer working community.
Gender discrimination or imbalance has been a matter of great concern in the contemporary employment realm, which has sometimes affected the reputation and performance of companies (Malvin & Girling, 2000). During these difficult and challenging economic hardship times, utilizing talent from the entire workforce that promotes inclusive working environment may deem significant to company’s competence. Gender equity and diversity are critical elements in any workplace environment.
Concept of diversity and equity
Human potential seem to differ from one individual to another and that is where the concept of equity in employment or workplace arise, taking into consideration fairness and justice regarded as a productivity factor in organizations (Hiranandani, 2012).
Equal opportunity principally refers to addressing human resource representation and balance and a terminology used in HR as measures taken by organizations to guarantee equality in recruitment and employment procedures. Equity is all about fostering and promoting the right to be different and free from discrimination, to possess a certain level of dignity and remain valued as an individual while at the same time remain entitled to personal beliefs and values (Monks, 2007).
Diversity means varied or assorted and in HR is normally all about valuing individual differences and establishing an environment with a culture of respecting personal differences for organizational or societal benefit. In modern business world, considering diversity in the workplace and nurturing an inclusive and unbiased working environment is becoming essential.
Workplace gender diversity is a matter of providing equal employment opportunities for all individuals despite their sexual characteristics and notwithstanding educational outcomes across gender or their ethnic groups. According to Monks (2007), “work-life balance policies need to be capable of translation into flexible practices, tailored to suit particular circumstances, and adapted as employees’ needs change over the course of their careers” (p.33).
Over the years, diversity management has come up as one of the integral part of human resource management with substantial research revealing that firms that have integrated diversity management systems demonstrate high levels of labor productivity especially during economic crunches.
Diversity management has currently “emerged as the most popular alternative to settle racial and gender discrimination issues compared to any other affirmative actions or employment equity strategies” (Hiranandani, 2012, p.11). With emerging management trends, diversity and equality approaches have gradually facilitated the transformation of workplaces towards diverse representative environments where innovation and productivity become shared responsibilities.
A diverse or inclusive workplace
An organization will remain considered having a diverse workforce or an inclusive one when a number of workplace issues portray evidence of multiplicity. An inclusive workplace “provides a welcoming culture where each individual feels valued; receive equal treatment coupled with deserved respect and dignity” (Monks, 2007, p.41).
An inclusive workplace translates to organizations that are without charge of sexual harassment, victimization and any form of discrimination. Organizations deemed as inclusive workplaces are normally proactive in their quest of equality, while at the same time realizing and seeking concrete outcomes including positive achievements as stipulated in the legislation (Malvin & Girling, 2000).
Inclusive organizations must always acknowledge, accommodate and value workforce diversity while providing facilities and adjusting policies that spur equality, enhance the dignity at work, improve working conditions, reinforce employee welfare and encourage fair recruitment (Monks, 2007). Organizations thought to have an inclusive workplace normally encourage and motivate all employees to develop and progress professionally and unnecessary occupational and hierarchical isolation never exist.
Gender discrimination: interviews at a glance
Based on my personal observation on the issue of gender discrimination, cases of gender bias at the workplace have existed in American companies for quite a while. I happened to build substantial interest in investigating the issue of workplace employee diversity and gender discrimination and from a wider view, interviewed people who have suffered effects of a glass ceiling or racial discrimination and these facts protracted.
My interview engaged 20 actively working people employees from different companies who could produce significant evidence over workplace diversity. Despite the American government struggling to instill equity in organizations, race, ethnicity and cultural differences are becoming constant problems in North American workplaces.
Glass ceiling is a terminology used in describing a situation where organizations use invisible discriminatory barriers that frustrate or depress minorities and women from career success. From the face-to-face interview undertaken, the researcher managed to assemble a few responses on perceptions regarding the state of workplace gender prejudice within the American organizations.
From the 20 women respondents interviewed directly by the researcher, 12 participants that represent 60% of them claimed that gender discrimination is still an incessant problem affecting the majority of the American companies.
Of this population, 5 respondents who represent 25% of the population involved in the face-to-face interview claimed that gender discrimination in American workplaces is a forgone issue, while only 3 respondents remain unsure about the issue of gender bias at workplaces. When questioned whether they encountered such challenges during their employment era, approximately 15 (75%) of the respondents revealed that they underwent workplace gender bias and are probably experiencing this problem to certain extents.
Minority participants 5 (25%) of them responded that they had never experienced workplace gender discrimination. Of those who experienced workplace gender discrimination, approximately 93% of them claimed that gender discrimination affected their competence at work since they had no opportunity to exercise their professional abilities freely following nature of these challenges that this situation presented.
Gender and diversity at the workplace is an issue that seems to differ from one nation to another, an organization to another and even one company to another (Malvin & Girling, 2000). Generally, developed nations seem to have improved significantly over the years on issues regarding gender and diversity at workplace given their ability to integrate policies and regulations governing employment reforms and standards.
In the United States, the status of a glass ceiling against women and minorities has improved following intensified campaigns against discrimination and presence of workplace diversity-management initiatives that began in USA in 1990s following the urging need to control individual and cross-cultural differences within the diverse demographic workforce (Hiranandani, 2012).
Since the advent of workplace diversity management that immigration activities and large women populace entering USA promoted, companies have since then developed policies concerning equality and human rights, dignity at workplace, fair employment, and improved working conditions that signify inclusive workplaces (Herring, 2009). However, glass ceiling still exists.
A decade after the development of the concept of diversity management in America, glass ceiling continued to prove challenging to women employees and the minority groups and cases of discrimination continued to protract.
A study conducted by Cotter et al. (2001) aimed at examining the effects of the glass ceiling at American workplaces revealed considerable evidence on continued glass ceiling and its effects. From the perspective of this study, organizations or industries practicing gendered glass ceiling, had a lower female share of Chief Executive Officers compared to that of their male counterparts.
This report can thus provide a substantial conclusion that despite workplaces becoming more diverse and women labor force participation rates increasing over the years, glass ceiling seem to prevail in hierarchical order (Cotter et al., 2001). As the system of employment within hierarchies continue and the criterion to consider top positions remain discriminated in terms of gender, the practice may commence over the years depending on policies governing the organizations.
Effects of workplace gender diversity
Research has established considerable effects of workplace gender diversity in relation to a continuum of organizational issues ranging from productivity, strategic management to enhanced corporate governance.
According to Malvin and Girling (2000), workplace diversity potentially contributes to competitive advantage for the organization as roles within the organizations remain distributed on the basis of professional competence and specialization where important aspects of problem solving and enhanced creativity emerges. People bring different sets of significant human capital contributions including qualifications, abilities, skills and achievements that can substantially contribute to organizational success in varied ways.
Hiranandani (2012) posits, “A diverse workforce can maximize talent and creativity and foster innovation, which can ultimately lead to increased profits and positive public image for a successful business enterprise” (p.7). Managers concerned with HR management are gradually becoming enlightened over issues regarding gender and workplace diversity, but little is known on the significant contribution of inclusive workplace or workplace gender diversity and therefore efforts to create and promote such workplaces are still negligible.
Notwithstanding its ability to prove significant to organizations with potential benefits becoming clear and logically sound, workplace diversity has remained underestimated and undervalued. Monks (2007) notes that developed a study to examine the business influence on equality and diversity to examine the issue in the international paradigm.
The report evaluated international research to produce evidence regarding equality and diversity and its correlation to organizational performance. Hiranandani (2012) investigated diversity management in the Canadian workplace while examining critical perspectives, the significance of incorporating an inclusive workplace and providing a framework to assist towards antiracism approaches.
This study also emphasized on establishing the situation regarding the ongoing workplace discrimination against visible minorities across the Canadian employment system. To enhance the understanding of the effects of workplace gender diversity, following the arguments and facts highlighted in the two above-mentioned studies will shed more light on the accrued contribution of a diverse workforce in organizations.
Diversity enhances organizational performance
Beyond any reasonable doubt, all profit and non-profit organizations aim at positive outcomes or simply enhanced performance, factors that not only financial capital but also human capital contributes heavily towards their attainment.
Monks (2007) notes, “Investment by organizations in initiatives that promote workplace equality and foster diversity has substantial benefits for both employees and employers” (p. 6). An inclusive workforce generates working pressure that significantly contributes to radical and competitive working groups that foster organizational productivity.
Monks (2007) study, identified that organizations with policies aimed at enhancing inclusive workplace or diversified workforce contribute to employee positive outcomes including job satisfaction, employee commitment, work-life balance and reduced work stress that significantly enhance organizational success indirectly.
With a streamlined top management that includes both genders, a sense of openness and integrity becomes evitable and achievable in organizations, as women have proven more trustworthy. Monks (2007) also notes that diversity potentially reduces absenteeism, improves employee relation and reduces labor turnover.
Diversity fosters innovation and creativity
In the modern business world that has remained characterized by globalization, uncertainties and radical changes, organizations will perform if they can readily adapt and learn businesses changes within its operational atmosphere. The need to remain competitive and innovative becomes integral.
Still on the part of organizational performance that several aspects can depict, studies have revealed that workplace diversity enhances or fosters innovation and creativity among the workforce that further contributes to organizational effectiveness. Hiranandani (2012) postulates, “A diverse workforce can maximize talent and creativity and foster innovation, which can ultimately lead to increased profits and positive public image for a successful business enterprise” (p.1).
At this point, workforce diversity becomes a significant organizational approach as in such rapidly changing socio-economic milieu, diverse knowledge; creative ideas and innovative minds combine efforts to enhance effective performance in organizations (Malvin & Girling, 2000). Through workforce diversity therefore, there is maximum access of talented employees and utilization of their innovative ideas that spur corporate effectiveness that enables them fit within the competitive business world.
Knowledge rests upon individuals and human capital differs distinctively from physical strength to intellectual ability. In organizations, communication is an aspect that allows knowledge sharing among members and an inclusive or diversified workplace stands a better position of acquiring a wider pool of talented workforce that generates a greater body of professional knowledge.
Herring (2009) notes that companies must promote workplace diversity as the emerging knowledge economy and knowledge intensification are important factors influencing performance in workplaces. Diversified workforce is where innovation generates from, since knowledge diffuses from different organizational members with differing intellectual abilities.
Knowledge development and diffusion are principle to improvement of economic activity. As postulated by Monks (2007), “knowledge is embodied in people, and it is the quality of human resources that will determine the success or otherwise of firms and economies in the years ahead” (p.15). A human being generates new knowledge. The same people disseminate and use the information that finally generates distinctive value.
Diversity enhances worker’s competence
Healthy competition, both internally and externally is significant as it forces organizations to respond to issues more straightforwardly and aim at expanding market accessibility and building its business reputation (Herring, 2009).
Professional development among workers is more competent in a diversified workforce where aggressiveness towards achieving better work results and professional acknowledgement prevail. Workers normally struggle to receive performance acknowledgement from their bosses and in an inclusive workplace, competition is generally higher than in an exclusive workplace (Malvin & Girling, 2000).
People carry different potency and an inclusive workplace enables employees to compete through their innovative ideas, professional qualifications and basic work skills that generate pressure on individual employee outcomes that further foster organizational effectiveness.
Monk (2007) notes that there is a positive relationship between diversity in top management and organizational effectiveness since organizations with top management that contains an inclusive system of governance is likely to have an informed decision-making due to shared opinions, views and perceptions regarding certain problems from both genders.
Diversity captures new global markets
Diversity management principally refers to organizational willingness to design programs and policies that enhance greater inclusion of all qualified individuals to exercise their professional expertise in an organization, despite their racial or sex differences (Herring, 2009).
Organizations with diversity management policies are capable of attracting talents and workforce allover thus tapping and exploring new global workforce markets. With the globalised business world, organizations have resorted to international markets and the majority of them no longer confine themselves within national markets.
Currently, the quest to enhance the effectiveness in organizations has been augmenting and this aspect has resulted in globalization of labor market and integrating diversity management policies across organizations may provide opportunities to increase market share in global labor market (Monks, 2007).
Therefore, “enhancing workforce diversity has the potential to capture new global markets and thereby boost corporate success” (Hiranandani, 2012, p.8). Since organizations enjoy unlimited access to global labor market rights, organizations with inclusive workplaces can build its reputation to employees.
Diversity encourages flexible working arrangements
All employees feel motivated when working in an environment that offers contributive working schedules that promote good health at work and positive outcomes of individuals. According to Malvin and Girling (2000), organizational commitment towards diversity management include integrating initiatives that promote employees to work in flexible, safe, understanding and creative environment.
Flexible working arrangements have been key aspects that workplace diversity offer and employees normally feel appreciated when organization consider their workplace safety. An inclusive workplace provides a range of “flexible working conditions that include arrangement of working hours, provisions for leave, recognition for cultural requirements, and that enables organizations to attract a diverse group of employees with a wider pool of talent” (Hiranandani, 2012, p.13).
As revealed by Malvin and Girling (2000), companies with shift work schedules have increased nowadays and by integrating policies that cover diversity management, managers find it easy to enhance flexible working through flexible schedules.
The world of globalization and industrialization has proved challenging with rapid socioeconomic changes and uncertainties affecting the business world. Companies with sound management practices have resorted to strategic management practices that involve incorporating diversity management techniques that entail integrating policies that allow inclusive workforce.
Over the years, glass ceiling has been a constant hitch to the development of women and minorities since it provides barriers towards exploration of their professional skills. Despite gaining substantial recognition since the year 1990s, diversity management has not been successful as such, as organizations possess different policies.
By enhancing inclusiveness in organization’s workforce, there are possibilities of enhancing organizational effectiveness as diversity in organization fosters innovation and creativity, enhances worker’s competence, reduces top laxity within the top management, reduces labor turnover, and discourages ill behaviors like absenteeism among others. All these aspects have a positive contribution to organizations in the sense that they influence an individual’s performance outcomes.
Cotter, D., Hermsen, J., Ovadia, S., & Vanneman, R. (2001). The glass ceiling effect. Social Forces, 80 (2), 655-682.
Herring, C. (2009). Does Diversity Pay? Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 208–224.
Hiranandani, V. (2012). Diversity Management in the Canadian Workplace: Towards an Antiracism Approach. Urban Studies Research, 1(1), 1-13.
Malvin, S., & Girling, G. (2000). What is managing diversity and why does it matter? Human Resource Development International, 3(4), 419-433.
Monks, K. (2007). The Business Impact of Equality and Diversity: The International Evidence. Dublin, Ireland: The Equality Authority.