In previous articles, we discussed the two most prevalent diversity paradigms in practice today.
(article continues below)
First was the Discrimination and Fairness Paradigm, which attempted to assimilate diversity into the company without acknowledging differences. This generally resulted in incongruous practices in the organization; some parts of the company would ignore diversity while others would attempt to work with it. This could also create resentment among majority workers, such as white males.
The second paradigm we discussed was the Access and Legitimacy Paradigm, which attempted to use diversity as a tool to access different demographic groups. If the fairness paradigm could be dubbed the assimilation paradigm, then the access paradigm is similarly described by differentiation. Companies use this theory to differentiate their business groups and access different demographics.
Differences are celebrated, but they are not investigated and understood. They are simply used.
There is another method that is evolving in the workplace. Instead of assimilation or differentiation, integration is the motivating factor behind this new theory. Assimilation pursues fairness without regard for the consequences. Most people do not want to be treated with blind fairness, as they would rather be appreciated as a contributing force in an organization.
Differentiation takes advantage of differences and uses them simply as a tool instead of celebrating them and learning about them in order to improve business practices. Integration is the best of both worlds.
Similar to the fairness and discrimination paradigm, it requires that people are treated fairly and equitably without discrimination. Also, like the access and legitimacy paradigm it acknowledges that people are different, in more ways than one.
However, this new model transcends the two other paradigms and combines the best of all worlds. It internalizes these processes and makes the company better because of them. Instead of placing differences in silos, it blends them into the knowledge and practices of the business as a whole.
An example of this is a small public interest law firm located in the northeastern part of the United States. Their staff was traditionally all white and tended to various practices. A few years ago, they noticed that they only catered to white women in their employment related disputes. While it was in their mission statement to help all women in their practice, they felt like this was a deficiency they needed to resolve.
Applying some of the concepts from the access paradigm, they hired a Hispanic woman to work on their staff. She opened them up to a whole new demographic of potential clients. However, instead of restricting her to the confines of the Hispanic community, they asked her for advice on their business model.
She brought a new perspective to their entire operation, and they continued to expand the diversity of their workforce. More women of color were hired, and they brought their own respective fresh perspectives. This expanded the scope and idea base of the firm, and they continue to reinvent their practice through these new visions.
All in all, this new hybrid diversity theory combines some of the best practices of the two previously discussed methods. They both have strengths, but traditionally their implementations have been flawed. The hybrid model focuses on implementing these diversity programs in such a way that the company and employee both benefit from the relationship.