Organizational Diversity: Ideal vs Practice

The previous articles introduced the concept of organizational diversity and how the various supporting laws and regulations square up against organizational commitment. This article looks at how the ideals of organizational diversity measure up to the practice of diversity across the world.

As with any idealistic notion, organizational diversity is usually done more in theory than in practice if the experiences of organizations in the United States and Asia are taken into reckoning. This is because the concept is good in theory where all organizations commit themselves to employing people of all genders, classes, ethnicities and sexual orientation.

However, due to prevailing mindsets, organizations do not actually practice this ideal and often the result is that organizations pay lip service to the ideal of diversity without practicing it. This results in the organizations proclaiming their commitment but in a hypocritical manner, abandoning it for the sake of convenience.

In India, Infosys was one of the first companies to have introduced the IWIN (Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network) initiative where the management proclaimed their support for diversity. However, with the passage of time, the initiative was suitably toned down to meet business goals where the need to encourage diversity was given up at the altar of convenience. Though the initiative had the blessings of the founders including NR Narayana Murthy, other executives at different levels did not see the need to follow these principles because of mindset issues. The point here is that mindsets are hard to change and hence, diversity is often sacrificed for organizational cohesion. The usual excuse given is that there are not enough employable candidates from different backgrounds and hence, it is not possible to practice diversity. However, a careful consideration of the facts shows that this is not true given the available labor pool that is very rich in diversity.

Further, diversity also means that the employees from different orientations are treated equally with other employees and inclusivity is practiced. Often, it is the case that employees from different backgrounds are hired and then treated shabbily because their coworkers have different views about diversity than the management. The reason for elucidating the point so deeply is that unless mindsets change, diversity would remain a concept on paper only. Hence, the only way out for companies to embrace diversity would be to educate their employees and enforce strict codes of conduct across the organization. Only then would the employees from different orientations would feel comfortable working in the company. In this endeavor, the government has to do its bit by passing and enforcing laws that take care of the rights of the differently abled and differently oriented employees.

The inescapable conclusion is that unless there is a wholesome embrace of diversity by walking the talk instead of talking the talk, diversity would only remain compliant with the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. This is the overriding message that emerges after surveying the experiences of organizations worldwide and in Asia.


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