Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other. We celebrated the New Year with happiness, unsure what to expect in the months ahead, but nothing prepared us for our experiences so far. The Coronavirus arrived unexpectedly and indiscriminately wreaked its brand of havoc, fabricated or factual, around the world. Suffice it to say its phantasmagoric presence was enough to permanently change our way of life and clog the wheels of the global economy.
Just when we started to settle into a new normal, the amorphous monster of racial discrimination reared its ugly head in the USA, sparking an outcry that reverberated internationally. This latter phenomenon has placed pressure on governments to take a more in-depth look at their aged institutionalized infrastructures and systemic practices that create racial disparities in their populations. Every human must now do the uncomfortable work of taking an introspective on their own biases toward equality and diversity.
Equality and diversity are strategic issues to be addressed on both a micro and macro level. If not for world migration in various forms, then we would not need to be discussing equality and diversity since we would all be living in our various parts of the world among our indigenous groups. However, here we are living in a veritable cornucopia of different cultures, values and attitudes. Our struggle lies in attempting to fuse these three in a way that makes sense and is equitable for all humanity.
Is it possible for us to be equal despite our diverseness? If so, how can this be accomplished? Let us first define these two words;
The dictionary defines equality as the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. Diversity is defined as a variety of something such as opinion, colour, or style. Therefore to accomplish equality, despite our differences, we have to be treated fairly, given the same rights, opportunities and privileges and be valued equally under the law.
This perfect state of being is much easier to talk about than to put in practice. In the absence of equality, discrimination arises, and some forms of discrimination are so entrenched that it requires a complete culture change if equality and diversity strategies are to take effect.
These strategies should begin with governments that open the borders of their countries to the different peoples of the world. This may be to have immigrants adopt the culture of their host country, but as we know, beliefs and values instilled in us from childhood are not easily forgotten. The result then is that, although they live in a foreign country, most immigrants hold on to their birth culture. These values and beliefs are then passed on to new generations born in the migrant country. Governments are therefore left with a diverse population of people with their individual and cultural needs to be fulfilled. When these needs are not wholly being met, it is labelled as inequality or discrimination.
Equality and Diversity
Personal discrimination may come in the form of unequal treatment based on gender, age, sexuality or disability. Outside of this, the most prevalent and well-known form of discrimination is due to one's race or ethnicity.
Race or Ethnicity
This form of discrimination is fear-based and leads to unequal treatment concerning fundamental human rights, including fair and equitable employment, housing and education.
Treating everyone fairly regardless of ethnicity opens the labour market and allows everyone to participate at all levels. Research has shown, however, that the gap is widening in the number of blacks versus whites in management (Torrington et al., 2005:532). Furthermore, continuing to segregate based on ethnicity diminishes the talent pool for employers who may have unfilled job roles for extended periods due to a lack of available skills.
In 2001, The Global Policy Forum highlighted that gender inequality is a societal problem by noting that "the undervaluing of women's contributions and the primary responsibilities of women within the family impeded their advancement across many, if not all, societies." Although more women have been entering the labour market since World War II, they are still at a disadvantage in a patriarchal society.
Women still work in feminine professions like nursing, "clerical and secretarial, catering, selling and cleaning" (Torrington et al., 2005:530). Research has shown, however, that women are entering more male-dominated professions, and some men are brave enough to enter the more female-dominated jobs (pp529-530). Despite this, women are still on the lower end of the pay scale, and yet, only a few "hold senior positions across industry and commerce." (Wrench, 2008)
By 2019 they had made significant strides in decreasing the financial gap between men and women in some developing countries and are developing policies to make financial inclusion products and services more accessible to youth in those nations.
There is still a long way to go before women enjoy the full status of equality beside their male coworkers. The CRHC says, "There is a need for employers to take a hard look at lingering stereotypes and misconceptions and to ensure that women benefit equally with men from career-enhancing opportunities."
Finding a job can be difficult at times for the best of us, but it is even more so if one is disabled. Job choices are few for people with disabilities, which means that they are more likely to remain unemployed for extended periods. Even if they are offered a job, they are limited in what they are allowed to do based on the fears of their employers (Torrington et al., 2005:532).
Two-thirds of Canadians believe age discrimination is apparent when candidates are being considered for specific jobs. In a poll of forty-four hundred Canadians, approximately half said they would perform some form of plastic surgery to appear younger to better their chances when job hunting. (Paton).
Over the years, it has become easier to discuss this sensitive subject openly. Due to its nature, discrimination based on sexuality was hard to identify (Torrington 2005: 534). However, people are becoming more accepting as they grow in knowledge and understanding of this subject.
A June 2020 report revealed that, although seventy-seven countries worldwide forbid discrimination based on a person's sexuality, most states still don't provide much legal protection for them (catalyst.org).
Approaches to Managing Equality and Diversity
Here are two approaches to managing equality and diversity:
Treat everyone fairly by purging old attitudes and laying a level playing field where equal opportunities are available for all.
Manage diversity by looking at people individually and attempt to meet their needs regardless of colour, class or culture.
Both approaches sound simple in concept but, over the years, have fallen short of achieving their objectives. Despite the numerous theories offered, many challenges remain in achieving a diverse organization or society where everyone agrees that they are treated equitably. Government laws and organizational policies seem to be helping in some regard, but if individual perceptions are not changing, the problem will persist. Rules and policies change behaviours but wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are necessary if we are to begin to see ourselves as equal.