Human Resources

Diversity: Discrimination and Fairness Paradigm

Written by Clayton Reeves for Gaebler Ventures

The Discrimination and Fairness Paradigm is one of the main diversity theories in practice today. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of this theory and how it relates to your small business.

Diversity is an important consideration for small business owners.

Diversity in the workplace has been a subject of inquiry for many theorists, and, in a previous article, I introduced theories of diversity in general.

In this article, we'll take a look at one particular theory of diversity: the Discrimination and Fairness Paradigm.

This is the most dominant diversity theory in the workplace today.

This is the type of theory that gives management an easy way out. Instead of accepting and embracing the differences between people in the workplace, the discrimination and fairness theory tends to ignore all of those differences in the name of fairness. People are treated as though they were vanilla folders

This is obviously a popular pick for management. It is easy for them to say that everyone is equal, and their respective backgrounds and experiences have no bearing on their potential contribution to the company.

Take a minute to consider that statement, because it really makes no sense.

If you are looking for a job, imagine what you would send to a potential employer: a resume, references and maybe a personalized cover letter. The resume basically states all of the experiences that you, as a potential employee, have had over the course of your career. It could state accomplishments, education, projects, work experience and volunteer endeavors.

These are basically the things that make you what you are. Experience and environment is what differentiates one person from another. Despite any differences in appearance, experiences offer the most important indication of how valuable you will be to a potential employer.

Now, if you send all of your experiences and accomplishments to a potential employer, how would you feel if they summarily dismissed them and treated you like any other applicant? What if they randomly picked an applicant for hire? That is basically what the discrimination and fairness paradigm preaches.

Everyone is the same, and being a woman or a Muslim does not give you any different insights into various operations of the business. This is simply not the case. People are different, and those differences need to be embraced and recognized, not hid under a blanket of "fairness" as many firms do now.

Another problem with these programs is that they often institute mentoring programs only for their minority employees. Women mentor women, etc. This opens an avenue for complaint from majority constituents such as white males, who also want the opportunity to communicate with a mentor.

This is an example of a difference in treatment, when the paradigm clearly states that everyone should be treated as though they were identical. Clearly, the applications of this theory do not agree with the logic upon which it is based.

Having such biased and inconsistent diversity practices can also breed resentment in your majority members.

The bottomline? Cultural differences that relate to the workplace should be discussed openly in order to improve upon the diversity practices of the firm.

When he's not playing racquetball or studying for a class, Clayton Reeves enjoys writing articles about entrepreneurship. He is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri with a concentration in Economics and Finance.

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