‘We can see the diversity of human cultures behind us, around us, and before us. The only demand that we can justly make … is that all the forms this diversity may take … contributes to the fullness of all the others’. Claude Levi-Strauss

The word diversity means a variety or assortment of different types of things. Just think of how many kinds of fruits, or T-shirts, or books there are. Well how about all of the many types of houses and cars that exist? Or the many different types of amazing birds, plants, and fish found all over the world? In the same way, human beings have a great deal of diversity. Although our basic structure is the same (we all have a head, body, arms, legs, etc.), there’s diversity in our looks. Skin, hair, and eyes all have lots of interesting colors. Our bodies are different, too, in size and shape. Even our fingerprints are unique!

People are diverse in other ways, too. We live in different places, have different kinds of jobs, and go to different schools. We have a variety of ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. And we speak many different languages and differ in our thoughts and feelings.

Diversity is a broader concept that builds upon the progress made through equal opportunities. Diversity involves recognition that everyone is different, and promotes respect and recognition for the value of difference. Promoting diversity involves creating an environment that capitalizes on everything that makes us unique – our gender, race, physical abilities, sexuality, religion, age, lifestyle, family status, linguistic abilities, etc – and giving everyone a fair and equal chance to be successful.

Diversity is also the focus on improving opportunities for ALL, is about respecting and valuing people as they are, rather than expecting them to conform to a stereotype. This is an approach that we believe should be practice and thought in all schools, colleges, universities, companies and homes. We suggest working actively in creating conscience towards valuing any input which you are able to make in developing new policies, action plans and special initiatives towards the achievement and embracement of this end.   

Defining diversity

The concept of diversity is based on individual acceptance and respect. It is an understanding that individuals are unique and different. Diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, culture, age, physical ability and religious, political and other beliefs.

Cultural diversity

Diversity includes cultural diversity. Cultural diversity acknowledges the existence of broad cultural groups within the world’s many cultures. Cultural diversity is part of our history, and through it, our human culture is constantly developing.

Cultural diversity includes (but is not limited to):

  • language
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • dress
  • values
  • religion and religious practices
  • social and community responsibilities
  • family and family responsibilities
  • political views.

Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is based on the acceptance, respect, understanding and appreciation of different cultures in the community. The inclusion of difference in State and Federal law has resulted in social cohesion and economic benefit. Multiculturalism has successfully placed the needs of people from diverse backgrounds onto the political and social agendas.

Governments has recognized and responded to the changing nature of the State’s social environment by moving from an approach based on assimilation, integration and ethnic affairs to one of multiculturalism, community relations and civic responsibility.

What are the Benefits of a Culturally Diverse Workplace?

A culturally diverse workplace promotes equity and enhances staff skills and agency success. Agencies working with diversity have identified the significant benefits to of having a culturally diverse workplace.

Benefits

Improved customer service

Community language skills and cultural competencies are valuable assets to any company. Customer service improves when staff understands and can communicate skillfully with customers from a range of backgrounds. The community is also more likely to identify with and relate to companies that reflect its level of diversity.

Responsive service delivery and enhanced staff skills

Companies are more responsive when staff are exposed to new ideas and provided with different ways of working and making decisions. When staff is encouraged to learn from one another, their skills and knowledge are also enhanced.

Reduction in skill shortages

Overseas trained staff have increased the pool of talent and experience in the Public Sector and helped to reduce skill shortages at specific times and provide skills not locally available.

Access to overseas markets

Some companies are utilizing the language, international expertise and cultural knowledge of staff to identify successful export opportunities.

Workplace diversity

Workplace diversity means creating an inclusive environment that embraces people’s individual differences and provides opportunities for all staff to achieve their full potential. When staff is encouraged to work in their areas of strength and capability, they are happier, more productive and more likely to stay with the company.

Valuing diversity

Valuing diversity is acknowledging differences through action. It emphasizes the processes needed to create a flexible and responsive agency where staff potential is recognized and developed.

Productive diversity

Productive diversity is based on the concept that there are potential economic benefits to be gained from valuing different experience, perspectives, skills and the cross-transfer and integration of these into the company and local economy.

Productive diversity makes good business sense in an environment where local diversity and global interconnectedness play a critical economic role.

Risks

Under equal employment opportunity (EEO) legislation at Federal and State levels it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of their sex, race, impairment, family responsibilities, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation or age.

Companies that are unprepared for diversity within the workforce may be found liable under EEO and Anti-Discrimination law for failing to remove direct and indirect barriers to the recruitment, development, support and promotion of EEO staff.

Other risks companies may be exposed to include:

  • tension among staff
  • distrust of anything new
  • gossip and rumor
  • open hostility or bullying
  • absenteeism
  • tarnishing of the agency’s reputation
  • low staff retention rates
  • lack of response to customers
  • falling standards of service quality.

Not managing diversity in the workforce can cost companies in financial terms and in low staff morale.

Companies can best manage risk by:

  • integrating diversity principles into all organizational planning
  • researching ‘best-fit’ diversity changes
  • consulting staff about proposed changes and providing targeted education programs
  • coordinating and implementing change through consultation
  • continuously evaluating change
  • communicating with staff over developments
  • including diversity responsibilities in managers’ performance agreements.

Equal Employment Opportunity

EEO is about:

  • ensuring workplaces are free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment
  • providing programs to assist people to overcome past or present disadvantage.

This means having workplace policies, practices and behaviors that are fair and do not disadvantage staff because they belong to particular groups.  In this kind of environment, all staff are valued and respected and have opportunities to pursue a career path of their choice and contribute to quality service delivery in the Public Sector. People are diverse in a lot of ways: age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socio-economic status… embracing all these things in people requires you to go beyond tolerating, but accepting them into your life, community and society. It is an ideal I think is worth striving for. Ultimately I find living in a place with a diverse culture interests me more – it provides the opportunity to learn and try new things, and improves my knowledge, understanding and expands my horizons…

MR.B.