Diversity as an issue is new. It became an issue when three powerfully significant trends reached their own critical points at about the same time (Fernandez & Barr, 1993):
The global market in which American corporations must now do business became intensely competitive.
The makeup of the U.S. work force began changing dramatically, becoming more diverse.
Individuals began to increasingly celebrate their differences and become less amenable to compromising what makes them unique. This inclination represents a marked departure from previous times when predispositions were to "fit in."
To succeed in this highly competitive environment, managers must find ways to get the highest level of contribution from their workers. And they will not be able to do that unless they are aware of the many ways that their understanding of diversity related to how well, or how poorly, people contribute (Johnston & Packer, 1987).
This competition is not going to go away; it is only going to increase, as American companies continue their scramble for markets. The point to remember is that, at the same time, they are scrambling for the best talent they can find, and searching for ways to get the best from the employees they now have (Fernandez, 1991). That is at the core of the business rationale for thinking about diversity. Managers must be clear about this--companies must make it a priority to create the kind of environment that will attract the best new talent and will make it possible for employees to make their fullest contribution (Fernandez, 1991).
The leaders of U.S. corporations must also recognize that the makeup of the overall American work force today is vastly different from what it was when they started business. This change, too, is only going to continue.
Workforce 2000 has projected that from 1985 to 2000 minorities, women, and immigrants will compose 85 percent of the growth in the work force (Johnston & Packer, 1987). Workforce 2000 projects the highest rate of increase for Asian Americans and Hispanics; however, Asian Americans will be less significant numerically than Hispanics because they are growing from a much smaller base. The labor participation growth rate of white women will be relatively smaller, but because they are expanding from a large base, the increase will be numerically substantial (Johnston & Packer, 1987).
The projection refers to work force growth. It doesn't mean that the prominence of white males in the labor force will change dramatically. In 1985 white males composed 49 percent of the labor force; by 2000, they will constitute approximately 45 percent (Johnston & Packer, 1987). However, in a number or companies, women and minorities already compose large portions of the existing work force and as much as 80 percent of new hires. For managers of these organizations, the future is now.
An equally significant prediction is that overall the...