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Diversity Management - Resource Centre

Diversity Management - Resource Centre



Definition of Human Diversity...

Human Diversity is a term that refers to variety and difference between people. These differences could include race, gender, age, intelligence, skills, qualifications, physical ability, religion, sexual orientation, general thinking, values, beliefs and any other dimension of human variation.


Definition of Diversity Management...

Diversity management is the art of moving people who are different towards common organisational objectives. 


History of Diversity Management...

The concept of diversity management has its roots in the United States, largely due to pressure from civil rights movements, women’s liberation movements, Supreme Court rulings, federal civil rights, equal opportunity pressures, and affirmative legislation and regulation in the 1950s and 1960s. As time moved on, diversity management was established as a discipline and refocused as something that should be done because it makes good business sense and not because it is compelled by law. Today, still, there is no generally accepted definition for diversity management and although there is much evidence that diversity improves innovation, it stays more a humanistic obligation to companies than a tool to enhance performance.

  • 1960’s: Pressure increases for equal opportunities within the workplace. This gives rise to the first diversity models relating to affirmative action and employment equity.

  • 1980’s: The terms ‘Diversity Management’ and ‘Managing Diversity’ came into use in the United States.

  • 1990’s: Diversity management emerges as a field and discipline of study. Mostly promoted in the areas of Industrial Psychology and Organisational Development. Prior to the 90’s diversity management was seen as a tool that would enhance employment equity and affirmative action, but is now studied as a business case that will enhance productivity and innovation within any organisation.

  • 2000: Derek Hendrikz and Marius Pretorius launched the Robben Island Diversity Experience in South Africa, and devise four core concepts of Diversity, namely Identity, Reference Systems, Relatedness and Power. Today these concepts are generally accepted in various academic circles as the four core concepts of diversity.


The Four Core Concepts of Human Diversity…

In the year 2000, Marius Pretorius and Derek Hendrikz, owners of the consulting firm DCT International, launched the Robben Island Diversity Experience. This was a psychodynamic approach to the study of diversity, very much based on the group relations model as practiced by the Tavistock Institute of Group Relations in the UK. The experience lasted 6-days and was held on Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.

For purpose of this experience, Hendrikz and Pretorius designed four core concepts that would be studied during the experience. The purpose of these concepts were to diverge from the shotgun approach to studying diversity where a number of topics (race, gender, culture, etc.) are randomly discussed without any progressive link between each. The core concepts, namely identity, reference systems, relatedness and power, aims to cluster various diversity related topics into a meaningful category. E.g. the reason people discriminate against others is to gain a power benefit. In this example, power becomes the reason for discrimination and further unpacking could then investigate specific forms of discrimination such as racism, ethnocentrism, nepotism, etc.…


Identity refers to the boundaries that define and differentiate subsystems from one another. Identity could take various forms, such as fixed identity, which is the mental ability, physical ability, age, gender, race, height, voice, physical features, etc, of any individual. Then there is collective identity, which is mostly chosen and can entail the groups, religion, culture, sport, etc with which any individual chooses to identify. Various symbols and rituals often accompany any collective identity, such as logo’s slogans, specific behavioural patterns, etc. Where collective identity becomes non-negotiable and non-questionable, we call it culture or religion. Lastly there is hidden identity, which is the aspects that differentiate one person from another, but which such person chooses to hide from others. Hidden identity could typify a myriad of things, such as HIV status, sexual orientation, bipolar disease, past experiences, etc. 

Reference Systems:

Reference Systems entail the beliefs, attitudes and values according to which a person views the world and evaluates behaviour, ideas and feelings. This experience explores the ways in which our reference systems are influenced by our worldviews, culture, race as well as individual and collective identity. Culture is a relatively organised system of shared -meanings, -beliefs, -customs, -attitudes, and social behaviour that identifies a group, hence culture being a collective reference system. Reference systems determine our focus & become the filter through which all new information and experiences are filtered and interpreted. It becomes the lenses through which we view and make sense out of the world. An organization, as with individuals, also has a paradigm. Any paradigm, be it individual or organizational has both defining factors and manifestations. Collective beliefs and values (not always overt) define an organizational paradigm. We bring our beliefs and values to consciousness when we translate them into principles and when we make our assumptions regarding them known. When we demonstrate our beliefs and values through our behaviour and attitude a complete metamorphosis has taken place. The polar opposite of paradigm is perception. Paradigm defines the window and perception tells paradigm what is on the other side.


Relatedness refers to the way that people relate to both sameness and difference in other people. This dimension is directly influenced by the elements of identity, reference systems and power. How you relate to people has an interpersonal and an intrapersonal dimension. Intrapersonal relatedness refers to how you deal with yourself, manage stress, move on after a mishap, etc. Intrapersonal relatedness often directly influences an individual’s behaviour. Interpersonal relatedness refers to how you position yourself within a collective context.


Power refers to the elements of empowerment, disempowerment, over-powerment and powerlessness. Discrimination and its various forms such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, chauvinism, ageism are all directly related to power.


The Benefits of a Diverse Workforce...

  • It stimulates creativity.

  • It induces growth and transformation.

  • It keeps the organization relevant.

  • It brings fresh views and different perspectives into the organization.

  • It keeps us in touch with our customers.


Understanding Discrimination...

Discrimination is the act of excluding another human being or group of people from gaining a specific privilege, or from being part of such group. The various forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, chauvinism, and ageism are all directly related to power. Discrimination is justifiable when it is socially and widely acceptable to exclude a human being or group of people from a specific privilege or group.

Discrimination and Power:

Power refers to the elements of empowerment, disempowerment, over-powerment and powerlessness. Discrimination and its various forms such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, chauvinism, ageism are all directly related to power. Power refers to the ability or capacity to do something or to influence people’s emotions or judgments. Control, influence, authority, strength, dominance, and persuasiveness are terms usually associated with power. We usually measure the power of a leader by the amount of influence s/he has. In turn, the ability to achieve its vision will be the appropriate measure of organizational power. Where we mostly associate authority with management and we often associate power if with leadership.

We are creatures of judgement, hence we project and we split. Consequently, the evil of discrimination is not located in discrimination itself, but in the purpose of discrimination.

The antidote to discriminatory practice is a strong anti-prejudice value system.

Justifiable Discrimination:

Discrimination is justifiable when it is socially and widely acceptable to exclude a human being or group of people from a specific privilege or group.




Variations of Discrimination...


The conscious discrimination against people of particular age groups, often in employment or promotions.


Chauvinism is an excessive or prejudiced loyalty to a particular gender, group, status, professional class or cause. Chauvinism can take various forms, e.g. where a specific profession such as engineers regard themselves as more superior than other employees, we will call it professional chauvinism; or where females regard themselves mote superior than male employees we will call it female chauvinism; etc, etc.…


Ethnocentrism is discrimination based on a belief in or assumption of the superiority of own social or cultural group. Examples will be where senior members are selected from the same ethnic group as the ones doing the selection. Where ethnocentrism is prevalent, organizational change becomes extremely difficult since ethnocentric individuals will protect and defend their ethnic values and beliefs at all cost.


Heterosexism is discrimination against homosexual men or woman. In this form of discrimination, heterosexual people will isolate and exclude homosexual people from groups and communities. This form of discrimination is often called homophobia.


Favouritism shown by somebody in power to relatives or friends, often by appointing or promoting them to good positions.


Discrimination based on race. The belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior.


Sexism is discrimination based on gender. Here a specific gender group will view themselves as more superior to the other gender, and in doing so exclude the other gender from power sharing, resource control, etc.


This is the fear of foreigners, typified by an intense fear or dislike of foreign people, their customs and culture, or of foreign things. Research have shown that xenophobic violence often relates to control of resources and not a real fear of that which is foreign. In South Africa during 2008, xenophobic violence made international news. On investigation it was found that the perpetrators felt that foreigners were taking their work and their resources, thus the attacks largely based on needs and not fear of foreign culture.


General Concepts of Human Diversity...

Following re general concepts that one must understand when studying in the field of human and workplace diversity.


In the context of human diversity, anxiety is caused on many levels. Firstly, there is the deep rooted need to survive, often driving the need to join a group, since collective survival is easier than individual survival. Secondly there is the fear of rejection and the need to be accepted that largely influences human behavior in group settings. In the context of workplace diversity, anxiety is caused by the thought of having to function independently, making own decisions, taking responsibility for own actions, etc. This anxiety can be contained within an organizational structure. Often a high level of dependency anxiety induces a strong parent / child relationship. In such case, no situation or decision can be dealt with, except if there are rules and regulations dictating every fine detail of the action. Once again the ritual task performance culture creates a structure within which members can contain their anxieties.


An assumption is a supposition, ignited by a belief, which an arguer uses as a starting point of logical proof. No theory or scientific experiment is possible without assumption. In fact, we base all human behavior and thinking on assumption. Assumption mostly becomes ‘fact’ at the point where we can provide mathematical ‘proof’ for a specific condition. This definition is important for understanding ‘presupposition’, which is an assumption or assumptions that we make as prior condition for a particular theory to be true. In the workplace diversity workshop, we make certain presuppositions on workplace and human diversity that guide and dictate our training methodology and theories.


Directly understood, behavior is the way in which a person, organism, or group responds to a certain set of conditions. In the context of workplace diversity, behavior is the verbal and non-verbal expression displayed in different contexts. Collective expression, when taking the form of non-questionable symbols and rituals rooted in non-negotiable values, are called culture. In work context, any individual employee’s behavior will be labeled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in relation to the collective norms (culture) that exists.


A belief is information you have about people, objects, issues, etc. that you consider true and factual. Such belief can be wrong or right. External contexts such as the environment where you grow up and the contexts within which you function largely shape and define your beliefs. The only way to develop a belief system internally is trough conscious awareness. As you become consciously aware of the self and how you relate to people, objects and issues, your belief system (what is true and real to you and what is not) will be defined and shaped.

Category Boundaries:

Category boundaries are the categorizations that we place people in and the assumptions that we attach to these categories. In context of workplace diversity, it is a process of social categorization. This will include the cognitive process of particularization; personalizing and individuating group members.


Consciousness relates to the level of awareness that we have of the world around us, in other words, being sensitive and tuned into one’s surroundings. Consciousness is mostly contained at three levels, namely the past, present and future. The subconscious is the area where consciousness is absent. One cannot give a clear distinction between consciousness and subconscious. It makes more sense to understand that there are levels of consciousness. As consciousness fades, the territory becomes subconscious. For example, a senior manager who is not aware of what is happening at grassroots level might have decreased consciousness. His consciousness thus fades when making assumptions about what is happening at the bottom of his/her organization. In addition, the grassroots employee’s consciousness will fade as he/she makes assumptions on what is happening on strategic level. I strongly hold the view that there is a direct correlation between consciousness and intelligence.


A construct is a theory, concept or model that came to being as result of systemic thought. In organizational sense, the most important construct is ‘paradigm’. Where the organizations environment interacts with its collective beliefs and values a construct in the form of a paradigm is established. We know that paradigm exists when such beliefs and values lead to assumptions that manifests in collectively practiced behavior. You cannot see or touch a paradigm, it is not tangible, but it does exist, therefore it is a construct. Evolution and learning are essential processes in the formation of construct.


Creativity implies the ability to produce original and new ideas. More than this, creativity is the ability to create options where others see none and to rethink current paradigms where others see no need to do so. This ability directly implies the breaking of collectively accepted rules and norms; be it rules of art, rules of science, or general rules of thinking. Creativity often has a time where people regard it as rebellious and weird, but once accepted, they label it as ingenious. In neurological terms, creativity is the ability to break with established neuro associations by creating new and sometimes unconventional neurological patterns. I advocate that creativity is a core prerequisite to innovation. The other core prerequisite to innovation is judgment. Now, even the most creative people on the planet have to make definite decisions within their creative process, otherwise, they will not be able to complete that with which they are busy. Therefore, it is not possible for creative thinking to produce anything without its polar opposite, judgment.


Culture is a relatively organised system of shared -meanings, -beliefs, -customs, -attitudes, and social behaviour that identifies a group. In human diversity, culture is the result of a collective identity forming process. When a group of people (collective identity) hold non-negotiable beliefs and values and where they practice non-questionable rituals and are proud to express collective symbols, then such collective will have a well-established culture. Similarly, workplace culture is characterised by non-conscious and collective behavioural patterns.


The field of post-modern philosophy mostly uses the concept ‘deconstruction’. During text analysis, it will imply that the reader rather than the author is central in determining meaning of the text. In the field of diversity management, deconstruction implies that any human diversity theory is legitimate within its context. This contradicts a modernist approach where we constantly seek a ‘best practice’ in the field of workplace diversity. E.g., ‘insight’ as a component of leadership will be relevant and subjective to a leader within a specific context, time and location. Another leader will have an entirely different insight within the same context, time and location. This deconstruction process makes evolution and growth possible. Yet, unlike with construction, deconstruction is more a process of unlearning and revolution than a process of learning and evolution. When developing construct we create paradigm, but when deconstructing, we reframe and break down paradigm.


Empowerment is the process of giving authority or power to a person or group. A manager empowers an organization by enabling it to function efficiently and effectively. This enablement can take up various forms, such as focusing the organization on its mission, containing the organizational task through strategies, structures and policies, and investing into employees through training, development, and mentorship. Empowerment also takes the form of delegation, which is a process of letting go of power. Ultimately, all managers derive their authority from organizational mission. Authority’s polar opposite, influence receives its boundaries from organizational vision. Thus, influence and vision is the Yang of authority and of mission.

Environmental Context:

This is the context within which any individual grows up, does work, socializes, etc. Such context will influence the values, beliefs, assumptions and rules through which a person evaluates, responds to, interprets and interacts with the people and objects around him or her.


Expression can be individual and collective and can be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal expression is the way in which a person expresses him or herself through the use of language. Individually the way a person uses language could be an indicator of his or her mental ability and collectively it could be an indicator of the values and beliefs that are collectively held. Collective verbal expression is often termed as the group ‘lingo’. Non-verbal expression is the way in which any individual expresses him or herself without words. It could be through behavioral patterns, attire, attitude, symbols, rituals, etc. Expression is rooted in the beliefs and values that a person sanctions and upholds. Thus when studying a person’s verbal and non-verbal expression, one can learn a lot about the particular values and beliefs of such person.


Judgment is the mental act of formulating an understanding or isolating a specific conclusion. Beliefs, convictions, conclusions, assessments, taste, discretion, forming of opinions and discrimination are all acts of judgment. In essence we eliminate options when we judge, thus judgment kills any new thinking. In organizational sense, we need judgment in the form of policy, rules and procedures to provide behavioral and operational boundaries. Together the opposing forces of judgment and creativity provide the context for a high performing organization. From judgment, we receive our order and from creativity, we receive the needed chaos for organizational evolution. Too much judgment will lead to stagnation and too much creativity will lead to uncertainty.


Perception is the way in which we interpret our environment (people and objects) by using our senses. We create an understanding of our world and surroundings through what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell. The way, in which we experience (perceive) the world will inform and adjust our paradigm (beliefs & values), and in turn paradigm will influence our perception. Paradigm feeds perception and perception feeds paradigm. It is mostly not ‘fact’ but this interaction between perception and paradigm that governs organizations. It is what people believe and perceive that create their truth. If seven people tell a new employee that the manager is an obnoxious male chauvinist, then that will be the new employees understanding of the manager, and the new employee’s behaviour will be directed accordingly, whether the perceived picture of the manager is true fact or not.


Principles can be encapsulated in the doctrine, truths, collective believes and standards that govern the morality and ethics of a specific dogma, or group of people. Different groups, be it religious, cultural, ethnical, or philosophical, have sets of principles, which they believe to be universal truths, and which they use to evaluate the people and world around them. Internal beliefs induce values that develop into collective principles, which manifests through assumptions that reveal itself through behavior. This is an evolutionary spiral where the heart gives birth to beliefs and values, which we process in the mind as principles, which induce assumptions that we finally demonstrate through our behaviour. In organizations, principals imply a way of working, e.g. following specific principles of supply-chain management or CRM. In this regard, the organization will follow certain beliefs and standards that they regard as universal truths within specific disciplines. Principals are aggressive boundaries, which we hold onto without apology. Its polar opposite, values, is more a silent and individual anchor that gives stability and holds our principles in place.

Sexual Orientation:

This is the sexual difference that any individual displays, in other words sexual orientation will indicate which gender a person is sexually attracted to. Three types are mainly categorized here, namely heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. Heterosexual individuals are attracted to the opposite sex, homosexual individuals are attracted to the same sex and bisexual individuals can be attracted to either sexes or genders.


Similar to psychological concepts of ‘the unconscious’ and ‘non-consciousness’, the subconscious is a human or organizational state outside ‘here and now’ awareness. In organizational sense, the subconscious represents dynamics that take place beyond our conscious awareness. E.g., Jack keeps on challenging Pete’s ideas in a meeting. Cognitively he has valid reasons for this, but unconsciously Jack’s challenge is based on envy of Pete due to a promotion, which he thought he (Jack) should have gotten. This is but a simple example, since subconscious organizational dynamics often manifest in various complexities and problematic behaviour. Similar to humans, organizational intelligence increases when we bring subconscious dynamics to consciousness. I thus strongly hold the view that a high level of organizational consciousness brings about strong relevance and effective organizational performance. Such organizational consciousness should include strong awareness of purpose, intent, action needed and results that must be achieved.


This is an identifiably separate social group within a larger culture, especially one regarded as existing outside mainstream society. A subculture often upholds the cultural patterns of the larger group, but has certain norms and values that distinguish them from the larger group. In organizational setting, you could for instance find a specific sub-culture within the IT department. Yet, the IT departments sub-culture does not totally defy the organizational culture; it merely has different values to dress code, time management, etc.


Values are the internal standards that ultimately direct the behavior of individuals, groups or organizations. It is a quiet moral code, which provides an ‘importance’ weighting to the emotions, logical reasoning and behaviour of others and of the self. Values therefore provide our estimation of what is important to us and such evaluation directly influences the way in which we judge the world and people around us. Transparency, integrity, honesty, and respect are examples of values. The polar opposite of values, principles, has a demonstration element whereas values lie deep and still in our psyche, with the behaviour of an anchor. This stable and quite nature gives values its feminine characteristic. Principles on the other hand aggressively attempts to convert and dominate the world and people around us. The primary difference between values and principles lies in the internal nature of values and the external nature of principles. Ultimately, principles are always collective in some way or another.


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