Diversity and Disability
While diversity programs have promoted awareness and education into the workplace, diversity managers and administrators must continue to ensure that their workforces are fully inclusive.
Inclusion is the process of involving and valuing all people in an environment regardless of their differences. Inclusion requires a proactive strategy that reflects a conscious decision to respect individuals by affording them the opportunity to become a valued part of the organization. In order for inclusion to occur, the work environment must reflect these values, promote cohesion, and ensure equal physical and social access.
Inclusion is especially important as the American workforce is changing, and employers are experiencing a more diverse employee base than ever before. For example, the workforce is becoming more culturally and linguistically diverse. By the middle of this century, more than half of the working population will be minorities (US Census, 2008). Age and disability are also making a difference in today’s workforce. Here’s why:
- The workforce is graying. While many Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age, not all can or will consider retirement. Approximately 69 percent of workers over the age of 45 plan to continue working past age 65. (AARP research report, “Staying Ahead of the Curve,” Sept. 23, 2002).
- The workforce is becoming more diverse in terms of disability. Estimates suggest that up to 20 percent of working age Americans have a disability. This figure will increase as the working-age population extends beyond age 65 and workers develop age-related health conditions. (US Census, 2000)
- Review employee demographics to develop a better understanding of your workforce.
Anticipate future needs as some of your employees move toward retirement.
Consider ways to develop a more universal approach to your employment policies.
Evaluate your diversity initiatives to learn how each have helped create a more inclusive workplace.
The Diversity and Disability page of the Department of Labor offers suggestions on how your company can support diversity and disability in the workplace.