Workforce Diversity, Gender and Glass Ceilings

Diversity and its importance

Diversity within the context of the workforce can be defined as the differences in the experiences as well as in views that come about because of variables in the human characteristics (Pynes, 2009). Within the workforce, the variation in the human characteristics arises from the physical make up such as mental and physical abilities, gender, and sexual orientation. The differences in the workforce may also arise from geographical and cultural orientations, including race, religion, and cultural heritage (Pynes, 2009). Moreover, diversity in the workplace may result from demographic characteristics that include age and educational background. In essence, variations found within the personnel emphasize the structure and the component of the population and demographics (Turnbull et al., 2009).

HRM managers should understand the effect of these dimensions on work performance, success as well as motivations. Most importantly, the HRM managers should comprehend how the dimensions that bring about diversity in the workplace affect interactions of workers (Pynes, 2009). Further, organizations’ human resource managers should put in place structures that take into consideration all the dimensions of diversity in the workforce.

Embracing diversity within the organizations’ workforce has increased benefits. Diversity within the workforce enables the company to have an increased competitive advantage. Personnel with diverse cultural, language, skills, educational, and leadership background characterize variations found in the workforce (Turnbull et al., 2009). The heterogeneous workforce created by diversified backgrounds brings into the organization the skills and competence mix that contributes to the increased competitive edge.

Workforce diversity leads to increased productivity. Variations in the workplace motivate workers and enable employees to be more efficient and effective, leading to increased productivity (Turnbull et al., 2009). Besides, diversity in leadership enables the organizations’ executives to bring in diversified skills and technological know-how that enable the firm to achieve its goals efficiently and effectively. Moreover, diversity also leads to increased creativity among employees. The employees’ interaction with various skills leads to innovations and creativity that brings about solutions to various problems the firm faces (Mor Borak, 2005).

Also, diversity leads to a positive reputation for the firm. Companies that embrace the diversified workforce are perceived to non-discriminative in their recruitment process (Mor Borak, 2005). As a result, highly qualified and professional staff are attracted to such firms. The qualified staff brings into the firm the necessary skills and competences that enable the organization to attain its objectives efficiently and effectively. Such firms also have the capability of sustaining the existing talent and competence, which, in effect, adds to the firm’s reputation (Mor Borak, 2005). Enhanced reputation increases the firms’ competitive advantage.

Managing gender and glass ceilings in the workforce

One of the ways through which the workforce can be diversified is through gender. Taking gender as one of the traits that determine diversity in the workplace, women are the least represented, particularly at the top of the corporate level. However, most of the corporations have realized that including educated women at the influential positions in the firm increases productivity (Williams, 2008). In the past, non-white women faced two obstacles in their attempt to rise at the top of their careers. The first problem was gender discrimination for being a woman. Secondly, they were non-white. However, these groups of women have moved away from the low skilled and uneducated positions they used to occupy to highly skilled positions (Williams, 2008). The reason why women are currently breaking the glass ceiling is that many organizations are doing away with structures that discriminated against women from the top jobs. Most firms have realized that embracing diversity in gender not only leads to increased productivity but also the firms’ reputations (Williams, 2008).

Despite individual commitment towards breaking through into the male dominating corporate top positions, many organizations are offering training programs for women who aspire to be at the top of the corporate ladder. The recommendations to the human resource managers are to augment the firms’ programs that offer mentorship to women. Also, human resource managers are encouraged to develop a company culture that appreciates the progress made by women as well as their career development (Williams, 2008).

Glass ceiling in the workplace is encountered when performance is being considered. From the traditional point of view, women are believed to be non-performers, yet researches indicate that women are even the best achievers in terms of corporate management (Williams, 2008). The belief has stopped women from rising to the top executive positions. Ideally, women are gendered in most organizations, and there are clear social structures between men and women. The social structures do not allow women to move up to the positions reserved for men.

For organizations to ensure equality, they must put in place structures such as equal remunerations, equal promotions, and equal responsibilities as well as develop a culture that is non-discriminative in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity (Williams, 2008). Also, human resources managers should consider mentoring as an important aspect that would allow women to thrive in the workplace. Minority women should be provided with both psychological and career support as they work their way up to the top. Moreover, formal and equal compensation, as well as benefit programs, can also be used by organizations to enhance women’s achievement (Williams, 2008).

In general, the organizations must take into consideration all the dimensions of diversity and their implications to the success of the organization. Dimensions such as gender discrimination are common in the workplace. Developing a culture that embraces equality would help manage such a diversified perspective and, in effect, bring additional benefit to the firm (Williams, 2008).

The difference between compliance with laws and managing diversity

Managing diversity means putting in place structures and strategies that ensure a diversified workforce. Moreover, managing diversity begins by recognizing the importance of having a diversified workforce in the organization (Turnbull et al., 2009). In other words, managing diversity is the capability of the organization to leverage variability in the workforce as an imperative source. Managing diversity includes participation, incorporation, and engagement of all the dimensions that characterize the diversity in the workplace (Turnbull et al., 2009). Also, managing diversity involves developing a culture of inclusion within the organization. In essence, managing diversity involves creating a work atmosphere where all employees are presented with equal opportunities, treatment, respect, and they are engaged in every aspect of the organization.

On the other hand, compliance with the rules that govern variability in the workplace involves following the conventions that ensure diversity. Compliance with the regulations ensuring diversity does not make organizations acknowledge the importance of diversity within the workforce. The implication is that organizations do not acknowledge the importance of having a diverse workforce. Rather, diversity is perceived as an obligation that must be fulfilled.

The implications for managing diversity using Strategic HRM as differentiated from traditional HRM

Managing diversity using strategic human resources techniques will enable the organization to gains more benefits. In other words, strategic human resources procedures will enable the organization to takes maximum advantage of variability within its workforce (Friday, 2003). Also, adopting strategic human resources in managing workplace diversity enable the organization to develop practices and processes that will lead to the realization of maximum benefits. Moreover, strategic human resources will make the organization provide a vision, show commitment, and communicate the benefits to all top-level management of the organization. Further, diversity, as part of the human resources strategic plan, will be developed and aligned to the general organizations’ tactical plan.

Besides, strategic human resources management will ensure that diversity is associated with the organizations’ performance. The knowledge that a diverse and all-encompassing environment is motivating and leads to increased productivity enables human resources management to align the individual performance with the goals of the company (Friday, 2003). Strategic human resources management will also enable the organization to develop qualitative and non-qualitative actions that result in different facets of general diversity plans. Moreover, strategic human resource management will ensure a continuous process of identifying and developing a varied team of workers who are talented and ensures the potential future growth of the company (Friday, 2003). Unlike traditional methods of human resources management, adopting strategic human resources management will ensure a process that maintains a continuous inflow of diversified workers. Strategic human resources managers will ensure that workers are trained in various aspects of diversity and develop a culture that embraces variations in the workplace.


Friday, E. (2003). Managing diversity using a strategic planned change approach. Journal of Management Development, 22(4), 863-880.

Mor Borak, M. (2005). Managing diversity: Toward a globally inclusive workplace. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Pynes, J. E. (2009). Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations: A strategic approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Turnbull, H., Greenwood, R., Tworoger, L. & Golden, C. (2009). Diversity and inclusion in organizations: Developing an instrument for identification of skills deficiencies. Academy of Organizational Culture Communications and Conflict, 14(1), 28-33.

Williams, M. (2008). A comprehensive model and measure of compensation satisfaction. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81(4), 639-668.