A Brief History of Diversity in the Workplace

diversity-in-workplace

Author: Robyn Showers
Source: Brazen Blog

This is not so much a history as it is an our-story.

Groan if you want, but it’s kind of true. The history of diversity in the workplace is by definition the story of how the concept of inclusion finally worked its way into our national narrative. When you have equality in the workforce, it creates a domino effect of change across the socioeconomic system.

Long story short: the face of the American workforce has changed dramatically over the past century (and there’s still a ways to go). Major milestones include:

  • In 1948, President Truman officially desegregated the armed forces with Executive Order 9981, which made discrimination based on “race, color, religion or natural origin” illegal for all members of the armed services.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 dealt a crucial blow to discrimination in the workforce by making it illegal for any business, private or public, to practice discriminatory hiring (and firing) practices.
  • More than forty years later, with the tech boom in full swing, journalists at the San Jose Mercury News and CNN Money began investigations into the workforce diversity at the Silicon Valley tech giants. Half the companies under investigation were able to block the release of the data from the U.S. Department of Labor, claiming that the data fell under the realm of “trade secret” and that releasing it would cause “competitive harm.”

That last incident, as you may know, caused a torrential downpour of bad publicity, and most of the companies involved have changed their tune in recent years, not just releasing their diversity stats but also actively trying to improve them.

Today, we look at diversity as not just a moral issue, but a business issue. It’s a proven fact that diverse companies perform at least 35% better than their homogeneous counterparts. That kind of proof is pretty hard to ignore, and companies that do are starting to feel the backlash.

So check out this brief history of the “diversity movement,” and tell us in the comments — what do you think is the next step after transparency?

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