June 2, 2020

Types of diversity in the workplace? (A Definitive Guide)

Anshika Awasthi

Did you know that the global management consultancy company, Accenture, comprises 42% (195,000) women employees and over 100,000 LGBT allies (as of 2019) etc., making itself the most diverse company in the world? (according to Forbes)

The outcome?

Accenture recorded $27 billion growth in annual revenue in the last 4 years as a result of expanding its workplace diversity.

A study found that instead of focusing on a specific area of diversity, focusing on creating teams that have multiple areas of diversity has more value. So how can a workplace structure diversify the workforce?

Creating a diverse structure means identifying different types of diversity in the workplace. Diversity is an umbrella term which we can simplify into two dimensions. Let’s discuss them briefly:

  • Primary Dimension
  • Secondary Dimension

Primary Dimensions

Primary dimensions include inborn differences or differences you’re born with and have to live throughout your life. These are the core elements through which people shape their self-image and worldview. Such as:

Age

By 2050 around a quarter of the global workforce will be aged over 60, unevenly distributed with some countries ageing more rapidly than others. For example, Northern America and Western Europe are older countries than India and Australia.

Apart from ageing, the global workforce is becoming more age-diverse which means that older workers are not the sole concerns. Young employees working with older colleagues, co-existing in the same workplace and vice versa.

58% of workers notice age bias in their 50’s while workers under 25 experience 2x less age discrimination.

A successful workplace follows the social categorisation perspective which is grouping individuals in terms of age. As a result:

  • People become more positively inclined towards a group of members similar in age.
  • Group homogeneity results in higher team performance.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is a social construct that is assigned to individuals at birth based on their biological sex. These binaries are then segregated in male and female groups.

There are other gender identities like transgender, gender-transition, genderqueer, gender fluid etc.

Examples of some of the leading top-rated companies that support LGBTQ equality are:

  • Ogilvy
  • Adidas
  • Tesla
  • Apple

Gender Expression

Gender expression group comes under types of diversity in the workplace who refers to the external appearance of an individual’s gender. It may be interpreted through hair, clothing, makeup, voice, behaviour, mannerism, preferred pronouns etc.

According to a survey by Ogilvy, 64% of the surveyed Americans reported that LGBTQ initiative from brand reflects diversity while 63% of them reported they would avoid making purchases from LBGTQ discriminators.

With such high support for the gender, gender expression is being normalised in the workplaces too. With Gen Z and (soon millennials) taking over the majority workforce, gender expression will be fully normalised in days to come.

For more information on how to become an inclusive workplace for all gender identities and expressions, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s guide to gender identity & gender expression in the workplace.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is another types of diversity in the workplace who inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, sexual attraction to other people. Common sexual orientations include heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and questioning.

These sexual minorities are at risk of experiencing subtle maltreatment in the workplace. Although various laws and policies have been imposed in many countries as a preventive measure.

Cognitive Disabilities

Cognitive disability is one of the other types of diversity in the workplace which means intellectual functioning recognised by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) by the following parameter:

  • IG below 70-75
  • Limitations in everyday social & practical skills
  • Disability began before age 18

However, having an intellectual disability doesn’t mean the person is not capable as an employee. Cognitive disabilities affect an individual’s memory, problem solving, abilities, attention, communication, linguistics etc. which can be mastered upon.

For example, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft suffered Dyslexia, Satoshi Tajiri, creator & designer of Pokemon had Asperger’s syndrome.

Diverse companies provide various tools and resources to help to support employees with all abilities to function normally like other colleagues at the workplace.

Physical Abilities & Disabilities

The most common types of diversity in the workplace are members with varying physical disabilities. It is no secret that there is an obvious gap between fully-abled and physically disabled groups.

Hiring the group can increase the cost, but several workplace construction alterations can result in an increased amount of deserving and suitable candidate.

Mental Health

Mental health is one of the foremost responsibility in HR space which directly affects the productivity of the company as a whole. Employees suffering from mental health should be supported with resources to seek and receive the help they need.

Mental Health is one of the types of diversity in the workplace has a stigma attached to it. Workplace around the globe is now improving resources like insurance benefits, proper leaves, remote working, virtual workplace to build an inclusive workplace culture.

Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity refers to an infinite range of differences in human brain function and behavioural traits. These differences can include those labelled as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism dyscalculia etc. these differences can be termed as alternative thinking styles associated with some unique strength too, such as the ability to spot patterns and trends, process information at extraordinary speed, data-driven thinking, which indeed are valuable traits in the workplace.

According to data, Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, 15% of the workforce of the UK are neurodivergent.

Workplaces around the world are typically designed for neurotypicals, which means workplaces are lacking to make full use of really valuable talent pool.

Cultural Background

Different factors make up different cultures, including food, clothes, religion, customs, mannerism etc.

Cultural background is one of the most familiar types of diversity in the workplace. For example, western culture contrasts eastern culture. It’s common for a French person to greet with a cheek kiss whereas an Asian person would prefer a handshake.

In a workplace diversity, teams need to respect and celebrate the differences in culture which in turn will create an innovative workplace.

Geographical Location

Geography is directly related to culture, language, education, social roles, ideologies which a person is accustomed.

Ruler-Urban divide in the workplace is just as important concern as racial and ethnic. Employees from ruler area face challenges in obtaining job training, socialising, forming a communication with the workplace teams.

With companies offering remote working and establishing virtual workplace, geographical location factor has minimised concern in workplaces now.

Secondary Dimensions

Secondary dimensions are acquired throughout a lifetime. These dimensions have less impact than primary but change the person’s self-definition, how he/she is viewed by others. This dimension includes:

Education

Education varies by geographical location, education centres, teachers, and influenced by national, state laws and requirement. Every individual is acquiring different education based on these factors. Not only that, but higher education also comes expensive.

However, several workplaces require a certain education degree during hiring. An intelligent employee, however, lacks behind from an employee who came with a higher degree but comparatively less potential. Employees coming from rural locations are auto assumed to be less educated than those coming from metro cities. There’s a correlation between education and unemployment.

Education is a type of diversity in the workplace which can be acquired with proper training programmes by workplaces.

Income

Income is one of the types of diversity in the workplace which plays an important role throughout the upbringing of a person from birth to retirement. Income is affected by location, family, socioeconomic background, gender etc.

In workplaces, the income pay gap between men and women is still prevailing and is a concern even after the equal pay act of 1963. While these acts are certainly steps in the right direction, there is still a scope of improvement in the workplace all over the world.

Racial/ BackgroundWomenMenFemale pay as % of Male GroupFemale pay as % of White Male
All races$789$97381%N/A
White$817$100281.5%81.5%
Black$654$73589.0%65.3%
Hispanic$617$72085.7%61.1%
Asian$937$124175.5%93.5%

Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic status (SES) is the measurement of people based on:

  • Education
  • Income
  • Occupation

According to the study, SSE has a direct impact on employee’s mental & physical health, stress, performance in the workplace.

Workplaces should create recruitment opportunities that resonate with people of varying SES. Adequate salaries, benefits, resources should be provided to employees who are impacted by their own SES.

Life Experience

Life experience encompasses all the work, education, service, public and private occurrences an individual goes throughout their life. It directly contributes to who they are, how they are viewed by others and how they interact with others.

Marital Status

For decades’ types of diversity in the workplace like age, race and gender brought new talents and perspective. Lifestyle diversity such as marital status, the living situation has not been much applied and seen in a negative light in workplaces.

The incomes of working wives are 38% to 40% less with the income of working husbands. Statistics such as these are interpreted as evidence of discrimination against married women.

Political Beliefs

Political discussion is great ways of connecting and engaging in stimulating conversation unrelated to work. However, political beliefs create conflicts in opinion in the workplace. Bringing politics into the workplace can lead issues around political affiliation discrimination.

Just like another type of diversity in the workplace, political diversity is important for providing unique ideas, morals, beliefs to the workplace and fostering a truly diverse workplace.

Religious & Spiritual Beliefs

Whether or not employees discuss their religious affiliation at work, it’s important to create a workplace that is accepting of every religion and spiritual belief.

Respecting individual of other religions, not judging others based on their clothes, creating a space for religious practice are few qualities of a diverse workplace.

Work Experiences

People coming from different work backgrounds come with unique skills set, mission, core values which vary by industry, location, employer. In a workplace, attracting talent with diverse work experience increases reach in the customer market, customer relations, industry relations etc.

Skills

Skillset is more of a priority in the recruitment process in today’s workplace. Skills are built from work experiences, professional history, personal experiences etc. innate skills like emotional intelligence, leadership abilities create a positive work environment while acquired skills are beneficial for productivity, innovation and growth of the company.

An individual with unique skill sets has a higher percentage of success than people with few skills set. Workplaces, however, runs programmes and workshops for their employees to encourage then hone in their skills which will, in turn, be favourable and valuable to the workplace.

Criminal Background

The unemployment rate for people aged 25-44 who have formerly been accused of a felony is more than five times higher than the national average. Some states however in the US offer tax breaks for companies that hire convicted candidates, other states allow employers to require criminal history on a job application, perpetuating to social bias.

Obama’s fair chance business pledge (2016) is an example of support towards incarcerated individuals towards employment in the hope of a normal lifestyle.

Today however it depends on the workplace to decide whether they should allow or not to hire the convicted candidates.

Bottom Line

It is important to note that the various types of diversity in the workplace should be valued as these differences are what makes your workplace a diverse one. Diversity brings innovation, with the probability of an increase in growth for the workplaces. Now that you all know about the different types of diversity and the importance of diversity in the workplace, its time to structure your workplace accordingly.

About the author

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.


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