AuthorPatricia Lanier

Page 191

The advent of equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and affirmative action programs created new employment opportunities for members of protected groups that had previously been victimized by employment discrimination. The demographic mix within the twenty-first century workplace has consequently become much more diverse because many workers now entering the workforce are neither white, male, nor English speaking. People of color continue to increase their shares of the labor force. The rates of growth for these groups are projected to be faster than the rate for whites. Whereas the White non-Hispanics are projected to continue to decline as a percentage of the labor force, Hispanics are predicted to be the second largest group in 2025, accounting for 17 percent of the total labor force. Furthermore, as of 2000, Hispanics have a larger share of the market than African Americans, 13 percent versus 12.7 percent. The share of African Americans in the labor force is expected to increase by only 1.8 percent during the same time period. Asians and other people of color would account for approximately 8 percent of the labor force in 2025. Hispanics and Asians, therefore, will continue to be the two fastest growing groups.

The workforce is also becoming older and is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of dual-income families (many of whom have young children), single-parent families, and families facing the demands of elder care. The projected labor market will continue to be significantly impacted by the aging of the baby-boom generation.

In the past, organizations ignored the impact that diversity had on the attitudes and behavior of employees. However, 25 years of political, social, and legal change brought new groups of employees into the work-place. At first, organizations attempted to handle these new groups through assimilation. People were expected to fit in. Equal treatment at the workplace meant the same treatment for each employee; individual differences were ignored. Consequently, assimilation often resulted in pressure to conform, exclusion and isolation, and reinforcement of the dominant group values. The problem became compounded as the number of diverse groups within the organization increased and the number of white males declined.

The failure to deal effectively with the diversity issue can hinder competitive advantage. For instance, firms choosing to do...

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