News / USA

Diversity Can Enrich Workplace

US laws prohibiting discrimination lead to more diverse workforce

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

As in many offices around the United States, people of different backgrounds work at the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington D.C.

Richard Regan, a Native American, joined the IRS a year ago. A member of the Lumbee-Cheraw tribe, he's often surprised at how little people around him know about Native Americans.

“Not only surprised, sometimes it really angers me," Regan says.

However, he finds it an opportunity to educate his coworkers about his background.

“I found they are pretty open to listening and changing some poorly conceived notions from the past about American Indians and Alaskan natives.”

Native Americans are one of the many racial and ethnic groups at the agency.

“Folks are Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian-American, American Indian, Alaskan native, Pacific Islanders. We even have a category where an individual can indicate two or more races,” says Elaine Ho, who works in the agency’s Diversity and Inclusion Departmen. “IRS is almost 66 percent women. And we have over 40 percent employees of color. We have 10 percent employees with disabilities. So, from that perspective, we are very diverse.”

Different perspectives

Federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin are meant to ensure equality in employment and education, but they also promote diversity.

Ho, an Asian-American, says people of different backgrounds bring different perspectives to their workplace, which can increase innovation and creativity.

“If you are surrounded by people that completely agree with you, who look like you, who think like you, who come to the same answers, you might think you’re in a great working environment because you'll never disagree," she says. "But that means that you’ll also run into the same roadblocks, the same problems.”

But diversity comes with its own challenges, such as misunderstandings and prejudice. Monica Davy, who heads the Diversity and Inclusion Department, says the IRS works hard to overcome that.

“We try to go around and do presentations or speeches or training to let people see the benefits of diversity," she says. "We show them the fact that there are studies out there that demonstrate that a diverse team - people with differences working together - can produce a better product.”

'Reinventing Diversity'

A corporate culture that acknowledges, respects and appreciates differences can also lead to better service for customers and clients, according to diversity expert Howard Ross.

“There is a hospital in the midwest in Flint, Michigan. They had some tension between black and white employees," he says. "Tension between management and labor that had also fallen along racial lines. They had a lot of issues in terms of patient satisfaction. They established an education program. We trained 40 people in the organization to lead that program on an ongoing basis. Within three years they went from last to first in their marketplace, and went from a deficit in terms of their operation to a strong profit.”

In his book, "Reinventing Diversity," Ross explains how his consulting company helped that effort.

"We created a tool called ‘Culture Vision’ which is a web-based tool that allows doctors and nurses to go in a matter of minutes and find cultural information about a patient, everything from how to better communicate with the patient to drugs that a patient might react to differently because of their genetic background.”

Ross says the movement of people around the globe has transformed the make-up of societies.

“We have countries like Denmark and Sweden, where 40 years ago, three or four percent of the population were people who were born outside of the country," Ross says. "Now it’s over 15 percent, moving toward 20 percent. You go to places like Singapore where before the last few years, diversity was never an issue, now they are talking about it. To Japan, where all of a sudden people have to consider should we get more women in, should we allow immigrants to come in to the businesses that we’re working with. These are places where people never talked about diversity up until the last 20 years.”

Yet now, as the world is becomes more connected, physically and virtually, corporations and governments are discovering the value of diversity.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid