The Effects of Managing Diversity in the Workforce

America’s response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and subsequent global terrorist activity has placed the United States in an awkward position as the world’s most powerful democratic nation in the free world. Consequently, the United States now has to address the complex issue of diversity in the workforce, civil rights, and justice as it relates to Islam, Muslims and the attitudes of the American people toward Islam, Muslims and terrorism.

Currently the United States and its allies are at war or in conflict with predominately Islamic countries including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine. Historically, the lists of conflicts and wars have also included other Islamic countries such as Libya, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Bosnia and many other countries. Ironically, according to research and related Census Bureau data, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and in the United States and will be the dominate religion in the United States by 2010 (U. S.

Census Bureau statistics, 2001). This fact presents an interesting dynamic for the United States and its global economy when trying to embrace the ideology of diversity. Unfortunately unlike the United States many of the countries the United States has been in conflict with are largely homogenous racial, ethnic or religious minority groups. This study proposes that the historical external conflicts of the United States (the macrocosm) with Islamic countries have been mirrored by the attitudes present in its corporations and businesses (the microcosm).

This general conflict is in contrasts to the United States present day existence as a nation that embraces diversity and multi-culturalism, especially as it is reflected in the workforce and global economy. Although many studies have been conducted on racial disparity, cultural diversity, and diversity training programs and their effects on business, this study will specifically focus on recent and current world events (e. g. the war on terrorism) and its impact on corporate leadership’s attitudes towards embracing diversity that includes Islam and Muslims.

It is important to note that Today most United States based Fortune 500 companies have a global presence and not only sell goods and services overseas but have physically established a presence in other countries. (Wagner, 2003 pg. 4). Secondly, it is important to discuss the United States’ general response to diversity and the related topics of racism, multi-culturalism, and diversity from the context that America, the great social melting pot, has generally embraced diversity.

This attitude is encapsulated by a quote in an article entitled Diversity in America by current U. S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: America is a nation of nations, made up of people from every land, of every race and practicing every faith. Our diversity is not a source of weakness; it is a source of strength, it is a source of our success. However, although the United States and its leadership have largely embraced diversity there continues to be an overwhelming problem with effectively managing diversity in a historically culturally-homogenous corporate environment.

In other words, the current problems associated with effectively managing diversity in the workforce have been compounded and complicated when confronting Islam and Muslims in the workforce. According to the Hudson Institute study, Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century, commissioned by the U. S. Department of Labor, 85% of the new entrants into the workforce will be women, minorities, and immigrants (Coy, 2000).

Among this population there is expected to be an increased presence of Muslims entering into the workforce therefore once again making diversity in the workforce a fact and managing it the challenge. The challenge with embracing Islam in the workforce extends beyond the typical challenges faced by corporations and their diversity initiatives. To many diversity is simply about filling quotas, grooming minorities and women for promotion, providing sexual harassment primers, or even making a facility wheelchair accessible (Barbian, 2003, p. 1).

But the complexities of human interaction in a free-market economy make diversity so much more. The fact that corporate globalism is here to stay turns diversity into a management issue that can make or break a corporation (Barbian, 2003, p. 1). The fact that Islam is on the rise in the United States and worldwide makes diversity and Islam a global issue. The context of this study will only briefly examine the previously mentioned facts regarding the United States and its historical conflicts because of the extensive resources and time required to understand each conflict and its relationship to diversity.

However, it is important to make several notes and assumptions in order to complete this study. Because of the United States’ unfortunate history deeply rooted in slavery, racism, and racial inequality, the impact of such conflicts often results in increased tension in the socio-political environment of the country; often indirectly promotes prejudicial attitudes; highlights existing disparities and differences between the treatment of specific minority groups; and heightens existing racial and ethnic tensions globally and locally which in turn effects the global economy.

This paper assumes that the recent rise in hate crimes against Muslim Americans or Muslims in America and the increased in profiling and sanctioned disposition of basic American rights and privileges is a direct result of America’s response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This research paper assumes that the impact of global conflict is often felt deeper in the United States because of its current socio-political status in the world.

The deeper impact happens as a result of the United States’ intricate relationship with Islam and Muslims. This research paper assumes that the impact of global conflict with Islamic countries is often felt deeper in the United States because of its interdependent business and personal interrelationships with Muslims businessmen, Islamic countries and American Muslims. Since this paper focus is on Muslims and diversity it is important to briefly discuss and research America’s top companies.

Briefly, most United States based Fortune 500 companies have a global presence and not only sell goods and services overseas but have physically established a presence in other countries (Wagner, 2003 pg. 4). This presence includes locations in Islamic countries or countries with a significant Muslim population such as many Middle Eastern, Asian, European, and North African countries. This evidence further supports the need for research that seeks to understand the impact on attitudes regarding Islam and diversity on successful businesses.