News / USA

Diversity Can Enrich Workplace

US laws prohibiting discrimination lead to more diverse workforce


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 Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

Day in Photos

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.