Why Diversification in the Workplace is a Positive Initiative By Laura Gainor

One of the issues I've seen being raised often on my timeline is criticism against companies for making efforts to diversify their workplace. On my first day at University, a lecturer stood in front of our cohort and said "These next three years, the things you learn will last you about one in the workplace. Your job will teach you everything you need to know. The most important thing university will teach you, is how to learn." Those who are critical of workplace diversification policies have stated that the policies themselves are racist against white people, and that the job might not go to the most qualified person.

To those critics, I have three arguments:

1. How can we adequately define “qualified” in a work environment that is rapidly evolving? Is a university degree really the be all and end all of qualifications? Backgrounds and different points of experience can all be valuable and help generate new ideas. A study from the International Journal of Human Resource Management even went as far as to claim “cross-culturally savvy employees are essential in coordinating and liaising with foreign affiliates both within and outside the organization” (Dollwet, M. and Reichard, R., 2014). The study was performed on a large number of test subjects and measured the positive and negative links between the psychological capabilities (PsyCap) of subjects and their exposure to diversification. The PsyCap attributes measured were self-efficacy, hope, optimism and resilience, and cultural intelligence. The study found that “cross-cultural PsyCap converges as expected with [cultural intelligence] and diverges from ethnocentrism.” Indicating that increased exposure to different backgrounds increased the positive elements of subject’s psychological capabilities.

Of course, education is important, but university is not the only way to achieve quality education in an era where a multitude of resources are available at the click of a button, and diversity of education has potential to bring a wave of new perspectives, improving the odds of a company’s success. The study demonstrated that limiting employee exposure to different experiences could potentially harm the PsyCap of the employees, and from this it can be reasonably inferred that this could negatively impact organisations making it a sensible decision to diversify an inter-company workforce.

2. Where was the outrage when for years people have gotten jobs, not because they were qualified, but because they or their parents knew someone who knew someone? A peer-reviewed study from the Academy of Management Journal stated that “hiring friends or others from one’s network is not only popular in many firms but is also encouraged, with the practice filling up to 50% of job openings” (Derfler-Rozin et al, 2018). Networking is undoubtedly an essential skill in today’s work environment, and I openly admit to utilising this myself, but regardless under-qualified people by definition frequently get jobs through referrals. They learn to be good at their jobs, and they get to learn because they are given the chance. Lack of access to these well-established networks makes for an almost impenetrable glass ceiling.

3. Candidate selection processes include interviews and aptitude tests as well as other controls. If someone of colour does get a job, their background will not be the only contributing factor. They will have interviewed well, passed the necessary tests, and deemed a good organisational fit. If a conscious effort is made to consider CVs that may have previously been overlooked, it gives others the opportunity to reach stages in the hiring process they had been previously unable to.

It is important we give all people opportunities to prove themselves. Unfortunately, because of the way our socio-economic system currently operates, diversification procedures are necessary to make a start towards equal opportunity. That said, it is great to see so many companies wanting to make that change and committing to new policies. I hope it continues.


Derfler-Rozin, R, Baker, B & Gino, F 2018, ‘Compromised Ethics in Hiring Processes? How Referrers’ Power Affects Employees’ Reactions to Referral Practices’, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 61, no. 2, pp. 615–636, viewed 8 June 2020, <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=bth&AN=129405451&site=ehost-live>.

Dollwet, M. and Reichard, R. (2014) ‘Assessing cross-cultural skills: validation of a new measure of cross-cultural psychological capital’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(12), pp. 1669–1696. doi: 10.1080/09585192.2013.845239.


Ethnocentric: evaluating other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one's own culture.

Cultural Intelligence: Cultural intelligence or cultural quotient (CQ) is a term used in business, education, government, and academic research. Cultural intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures.


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