The Characteristics of Diversity

When managers speak of diverse workforces, they typically mean differences in gender and race. While gender and race are important characteristics of diversity, others are also important. We can divide these differences into primary and secondary characteristics of diversity. Age, gender, race, ethnicity, abilities, and sexual orientation represent primary characteristics of diversity which are inborn and cannot be changed. Eight secondary characteristics of diversity—work, background, income, marital status, military enterprise, religious beliefs, geographic location, parental status, and education—which can be changed. We acquire, change, and discard them as we progress through our lives.

Defining characteristics of diversity as either primary or secondary enhances our understanding, but we must remember that each person is defined by the interrelation of all characteristics. In dealing with diversity in the workforce, managers must consider the complete person’s differences.

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