Diversity and Cultural Competence in the Workplace

By: R. Nicole Cutts, Ph.D.

In today's ever expanding global market place an understanding of diversity is perhaps more important than ever.  Knowing your organization's attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors about diversity can lead to greater business success. 

Workplace Discrimination Facts:
In Fiscal Year 2006 the EEOC received the following number of discrimination charges, and recovered the following monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals.

  • Age Discrimination = 16,548 charges/$51.5 million recovered.
  • Disability Discrimination = 15,575 charges/$48.8 million recovered.
  • National Origin = 8,327 charges/$21.2 million recovered.
  • Racial Discrimination = 27,238 charges/$61.4 million recovered.
  • Religious Discrimination = 2,541 charges/$5.7 million recovered.
  • Sex-based Discrimination = 23,247 charges/$99.1 million recovered.
  • Sexual Orientation Discrimination -Studies conducted since the mid-1990s found that 15% - 43% of LGB respondents experienced discrimination in the workplace. (8%-17% were fired or denied employment; 10%-28% were denied a promotion or given negative performance evaluations; 7%-41% were verbally/physically abused or had their workplace vandalized; and 10%-19% reported receiving unequal pay or benefits.)
  • 15% - 57% of transgender people also report experiencing employment discrimination.

Workplace Diversity Facts:

  • According to Harvard Business School professors Robin Ely and David Thomas, the benefit of diversity alone, done right, pays off not just in a better company, but a more productive one.
  • Ultimately, the strength of commitment by a company’s leadership will determine whether the organization successfully leverages workplace diversity for competitive advantage.

The State of Diversity Today

Data collected by the EEOC reveals that there was an increase in workplace discrimination from FY 2005-2006.  For example Diversity Inc. reports that “Since October 2006, the number of noose sightings has steadily risen to more than 40 reported incidents.” 

Some experts blame this change in the diversity climate on changes in the economy, noting that when the economy is teetering individuals may look for scapegoats.  Others see it as a predictable backlash to the previous climate of increased diversity.  Many say it is a combination of both.

Cultural Competence

Fortunately many corporations, such as yours, have made diversity an important aspect of their overall strategic plan and mission. However, diversity alone does not equal cultural competence. Cultural competence is the ability to effectively relate to and communicate with people within and outside your organization from diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, economic, social, and linguistic backgrounds.

Becoming culturally competent is a dynamic process between leadership, employees and customers that requires cultural knowledge and skill development at all service levels, including strategic planning, policymaking, administration, and practice. 

To be most effective Diversity Initiatives must:

  • Clearly Define Their Mission
  • Remain Relevant
  • Convey Their Relevance to the Company
  • Be Culturally Competent
  • Be Resilient in Changing Climates
  • Be Stategic and Proactive in their Approach

Achieving Your Mission

Achieving your goals and Mission (Vision of Success) takes strategic planning, organization, and skills development. Cutts Consulting offers services and topics that can help strengthen and increase the effectiveness of your Diversity Initiative such as:

  • Diversity Strategic Planning
  • Defining your Mission, Vision, and Goals
  • Recruiting
  • Retention

Skills Development

Increasing Cultural Competence


For a full description of our diversity offerings please contact Cutts Consulting at 202.669.5777.

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