University of California, Berkeley

Why Diversity Matters

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What is diversity?

What do we mean when we speak of diversity at the University of California, Berkeley? The Staff Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Compliance Office offers one definition:

"Diversity refers to human qualities that are different from our own and those of groups to which we belong; but that are manifested in other individuals and groups. Dimensions of diversity include but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and job classification."

Diversity as a concept focuses on a broader set of qualities than race and gender. In the context of the workplace, valuing diversity means creating a workplace that respects and includes differences, recognizing the unique contributions that individuals with many types of differences can make, and creating a work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees.

Diversity is also about having the long term goal that the campus work force should generally reflect the population of the state it serves in all its dimensions.

The relationship of diversity, equal employment opportunity, and affirmative action

Although diversity, equal employment opportunity, and affirmative action are all different, they are interrelated. (See Comparison of Diversity, EEO and AA Chart  (PDF).) Each is directed toward achieving equal opportunity in the workplace. Diversity and affirmative action each broaden the concept of equal employment opportunity in different ways. Diversity, equal employment opportunity, and affirmative action together provide a strong foundation for the University's efforts to achieve a fair and inclusive workplace.

Diversity is broader than affirmative action and is voluntary (i.e., it is not "strictly necessary" to incorporate diversity concepts in order to meet federal requirements) However, the Regents and Chancellor Birgeneau are committed to having a diverse University. Emphasizing diversity moves the University beyond considerations of only race and gender in its efforts to achieve an inclusive work environment.

While affirmative action and equal employment opportunity focus on employment practices, the concept of diversity extends to the work environment, including individual attitudes and behaviors. Yet diversity is related to affirmative action and equal employment opportunity, as there is a direct relationship between individual attitudes and behaviors, and employment practices. Diversity workshops can help managers learn a variety of options to enhance diversity, and to understand how to consistently apply fair employment practices and procedures.

Actions that promote diversity for staff are those that lead to a work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees while acknowledging their unique contributions and differences.

Equal employment opportunity
Equal employment opportunity is the core concept that unifies diversity and affirmative action efforts; that everyone should have equal access to employment opportunities. The University of California adheres to state and federal equal employment opportunity laws and University policy, which prohibit discrimination based on a variety of characteristics. In addition to race and sex, these characteristics include: color, national origin, religion, physical or mental ability, medical condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, status as a covered veteran, and on the basis of citizenship (see Nondiscrimination Policy).
Affirmative action

The basics of affirmative action have been discussed in the preceding sections of this plan. Affirmative action was developed because of the need to take "affirmative action" to begin to reverse historic patterns of employment discrimination against minorities and women.

Federal regulations governing the University's affirmative action activities require the use of race, ethnicity, or sex in limited circumstances, such as when analyzing the work force to identify areas of under-utilization of minorities and women, and establishing goals in affirmative action plans on that basis. When goals exist, the University may undertake targeted recruitment efforts to ensure that underutilized minorities and women are represented in the applicant pool.

Why is diversity important?

Educating managers and staff on how to work effectively in a diverse environment helps the University prevent discrimination and promote inclusiveness. There is evidence that managing a diverse work force can contribute to increased staff retention and productivity. It can enhance the organization's responsiveness to an increasingly diverse world of customers, improve relations with the surrounding community, increase the organization's ability to cope with change, and expand the creativity of the organization. In addition to contributing to these business goals, diversity can contribute to goals unique to the University as a public institution, such as increased accessibility and accountability to all residents of the state.

Good management of a diverse work force can increase productivity and enhance the University's ability to maneuver in an increasingly complex and diverse environment.

Fairness vs. equal treatment

Many people think that "fairness" means "treating everyone the same." How well does treating everyone the same work for a diverse staff? For example, when employees have limited English language skills or reading proficiency, even though that limit might not impair their ability to do their jobs, transmitting important information through complicated memorandums might not be an effective way of communicating with them. While distributing such memos to all staff is "treating everyone the same," this approach may not communicate essential information to everyone who receives them. It is easy to see how a staff member who missed out on essential information might feel that the communication process was "unfair."

A process that takes account of the diverse levels of English language and reading proficiency among the staff might require extra time to make certain that everyone understands an important memorandum. Such efforts on the part of supervisors and managers should be supported and rewarded as good management practices for working with a diverse staff.

Diversity and Demographics

How well is UC Berkeley doing with respect to diversity? In terms of actual numbers, we are limited to those dimensions of diversity for which statistical information is collected. While diversity addresses many dimensions of difference other than race, ethnicity, sex, and age, statistical information on those dimensions is readily accessible. It is illuminating, for example, to compare UC Berkeley's work force with the working age population of the state of California along the dimensions of ethnicity and age.

For many types of jobs, the percentages of minorities and women in the University work force are substantially less than their representation in the working age population. Even though minorities and women are substantially underrepresented in particular "job groups" compared to their representation in the working age population, they are not considered to be underutilized for affirmative action purposes if the percentage they represent at the University meets or exceeds their availability percentage for the particular job group. Since affirmative action identifies under-utilization based on the percentages of minorities and women who already have the requisite skills in specific job areas, under-utilization figures present a limited analysis of work force demographics.