Changes to the workforce have been occurring in many ways since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, religion and disability. In addition, state laws and local ordinances maintain up-to-date policies promoting equality and workplace diversity. Engaging in behaviour that follows the principles of equality and diversity can increase your company's reputation and profitability.
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The term "equality" means equitable treatment among all groups of people; however, one common use of the term refers to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Both laws address the issue of unequal treatment based on discriminatory pay practices. The National Committee on Pay Equity reports: "Census statistics released September 16, 2010 show that women still earn 77 per cent of what men earn, based on the median earnings of full-time, year-round workers in 2009." Equal employment is afforded as a civil right to all citizens; therefore, unequal treatment and justifying inequality are unlawful actions.
Advantage of Equality
The advantage of practicing workforce equality extends far beyond simply pay practices, however. Equality means giving qualified applicants the opportunity to be considered for jobs in the same manner that you give consideration for employment to non-minorities and men. In terms of tangible benefits of practicing equality, employers who choose to ignore fair employment practices face stiff fines and penalties, and bad publicity. Though easily prevented, lawsuits are costly to defend and have a negative impact on the employer's reputation and, thus, its bottom line and profitability. Advantages that can't be measured in dollars are personal rewards from knowing you extend fair treatment to everyone.
Since the 1960s, the definition of diversity has been revised often. Diversity has also been confused with affirmative action, a result of Executive Order 11246, governing the recruitment and selection practices of federal government contractors. In the private sector, however, the concept of diversity expands with each different characteristic in the workplace. Once, workplace diversity simply meant that employees of race, culture, national origin, religion, colour and sex populated the workplace. The definition expanded to include people with different values, work styles, generations, family structure and sexual orientation.
Advantage of Diversity
Embracing diversity has tremendous advantages, tangible and intangible. The introduction of diverse cultures, languages, work styles and generations create a synergy within the workplace that is difficult to create otherwise. Tangible advantages of diversity include the ability to reach a market segment previously inaccessible to your organisation. An "Experience" article, "The Benefits of Diversity," states: "More and more, organisations are realising that in order to be successful and recruit and retain the best employees, they must value the diversity of their employees and the clients they serve." Intangible advantages include the exposure your employees benefit from by interacting with people who represent so many facets of diversity. It expands your view of the world, which can result in the ability to anticipate change to the demographics as the population grows.
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