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Workplace diversity also encompasses a much wider variety of related
individual differences, such as military experience, marital status, educa-
tional background, job training, and geographic location ( Church,
1995 ). According to Parvis (2003) , positive benefits of workforce diver-
sity are achieved through reaching long- and short-term goals that
reflect the characteristics and circumstances of the relevant population.
Although the concept of workplace diversity highlights differences, its
real value is that it creates an entity that is far more dynamic and greater
than the sum of its individual parts. It is important for employers to reas-
sess their concept of diversity and how it impacts their workplace during
the recent economic downturn, and its implications for future changes
in the economy.
Diversity is an important factor in this chapter for several reasons.
First, it is directly connected to the issue of discrimination in the work-
place and its negative effects related to race, gender, class, culture, and
other factors. A number of studies and reports have found that workplace
diversity has presented new concerns as a result of the recent economic
downturn. Much of the data describe how discrimination in the work-
place has risen during the downturn and how women, racial and ethnic
groups, and other marginalized people have been hit hardest ( Blank &
Slipp, 1994 ). Although discrimination in the workplace can be a very
challenging problem, it is not a recent phenomenon.
Workplace discrimination has existed within the whole range and
continuum of history in America. Briefly stated, it was present during
the European colonization of North America in the 1600s ( Takaki,
1987 ), and various historians and social scientists have reported how
groups were first brought to the western hemisphere from Africa to
work as slaves. European indentured servants came in the capacity of
cheap, temporary labor. Native Americans, who had resided on the con-
tinent for centuries, were exploited for the use of their labor and land.
Europeans and Asian ethnic groups and others were exploited by class,
religion, ethnicity, or cultural identity and experienced workplace dis-
crimination. Many contemporary groups experience various degrees of
workplace discrimination, based upon sexual orientation, gender, age,
race, physical appearance, and disabilities.
The social, economic, and historical development of the United States
has often been subject to ambiguity concerning the principles of fairness
and equity ( Hacker, 1992 ). As it is related to diversity in the workplace,
the history can be described as an especially difficult and ongoing
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