Diversity has been a hotly debated topic ever since women entered the workforce while men were fulfilling their military service in the Second World War. With the advent of civil rights in the 1960s, the concept of cultural and ethnic diversity gained traction and spurred various inclusivity initiatives. However, thirty years later, the issue is far from resolved. Efforts such as Affirmative Action and workplace quotas are still incredibly controversial and deemed inadequate. In his book “The End of Diversity as We Know It”, Martin N. Davidson attempts to elucidate the failure of traditional diversity methods and introduce a newer model of systematic inclusion.
Firstly, Davidson explains why traditional diversity methods – what he calls “Managing Diversity” – have failed to enact any real change on a systematic level. He argues that current initiatives have limited themselves to merely recruiting employees from varied sociodemographic profiles without providing the necessary environment for them to prosper (Davidson, 2011). Despite the growing number of diverse employees, nothing is done to tackle structural impediments and unintended or deliberate biases among implemented procedures and other employees. Other employees feel disparaged and treat minority colleagues with passive aggression and claims of reverse discrimination (Davidson, 2011). Furthermore, studies have proven the inadequacy of other diversity measures such as diversity training, hiring tests, and performance ratings because they are vulnerable to the biases and resentment of their raters (Dobbin & Kalev, 2016). Consequently, regardless of company policy, minority employees remain frustrated by systematic exclusion, resulting in lower retention rates among women and people of color relative to white male employees (Davidson, 2011). Much work must be done before it can truly be said that diversity is fully implemented.
Secondly, Davidson differentiates between performative and entrenched diversity in the workplace. Organizations must cultivate a completely different attitude to inclusion and display an organizational capability for difference. It is not enough to tolerate or welcome heterogeneity; it must be embedded into and supported by all employees, practices, and systems (Davidson, 2011). This will cause a paradigm shift when organizations are no longer performing diversity but “living” it (Davidson, 2011). An organization must be open to and capable of change for diversity to become part of the system and not just a slogan.
Thirdly, Davidson proposes an alternative approach to encouraging diversity that will facilitate organizational capability development; the so-called “Leveraging Diversity”. In the age of globalization, American companies have to be conscious of sociocultural differences among their clientele (Davidson, 2011). Therefore, they should stop promoting inclusive U.S.-centric demographic representation for the sake of optics and instead recruit talented employees from different backgrounds because they can provide valuable insight into international business strategy. The workplace environment will then reshape itself to accommodate this new evaluation of diverse players, and there will be less resistance from other colleagues (Davidson, 2011). This contributes to the current view that diversity can propel innovation and give businesses a competitive edge in the global marketplace (Forbes Insights, 2011). Hearing voices from new backgrounds and modes of thinking can lead to new ideas, services, and products (Forbes Insights, 2011). Similar to many other advocates, Davidson emphasizes the benefits of diversity to prove its necessity.
Then, Davidson presents his “Leveraging Difference Cycle” that will enable organizations to achieve the paradigm shift of “living” diversity. It consists of identifying and learning about strategically relevant differences, creating business results from them, and eventually systematically achieving results by continuously using differences (Davidson, 2011). A more succinct version: see difference, understand difference, engage difference, leverage difference (Davidson, 2011). Integrating difference into business strategy will allow the transformation of all organizations levels, including how planning and decision-making are conducted.
Finally, Davidson introduces key principles leaders and managers need to execute when participating in the “Leveraging Difference Cycle”. Enacting systematic change begins with simple interactions between individuals. However, exploring differences is a charged process and might lead to unhelpful workplace confrontation and conflict. In order to avoid this, it is necessary to avoid reactive expressions of negative emotions, remember larger goals, question yourself, seek out support, and shift your mindset towards opportunity (Davidson, 2011). In general, instead of being defensive, employees must continually make an effort to understand each other and bridge their differences for successful diversity integration.
Davidson’s book was an interesting take on modern conceptions of diversity. It was particularly relevant to our course because it assessed traditional methods of diversity management and offered new, more effective strategies to implement wide-scale systematic change. It allowed us to conclude that current recruitment policies based on sociodemographic factors do not actually lead to inclusive work environments, and merely foster resentment between both minority and majority groups.
In conclusion, The End of Diversity as We Know It is a valuable and refreshing assessment of current diversity initiatives. Davidson presented the need for systemic reform and flawlessly proved the traditional method’s incapability of doing so. He then presented his own model of achieving reform and the attendant psychological shifts necessary on an organizational and individual level. He ingenious argued for the recruitment of diverse employees by showing how their deviation from the while male standard can be exploited. Ultimately, only one thing can inspire corporate change: the possibility of more profit.
Davidson, M. N. (2011). The end of diversity as we know it: Why diversity efforts fail. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016). Why diversity programs fail. Harvard Business Review, 94(7), 14.
Forbes Insights (2011). Global diversity and inclusion: fostering innovation through a diverse workforce. Web.