6 different types of diversity that exist in the workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Diversity in the workplace is an important factor in ensuring employees feel safe to contribute in an inclusive and accommodating environment for individuals of all backgrounds and abilities. Diversity can come in many forms and individuals from different backgrounds and cultures add perspective to a workplace. It's important to learn about the different diversity types in a workplace, as a homogenous work environment can lead to stagnation and a reduction of productivity. In this article, we discuss what diversity is, why it's important in the workplace and the six different diversity types in the workplace.

What is diversity?

The broad definition of diversity in the workplace is that a company hires a wide array of individuals from multiple different backgrounds and cultures to create an inclusive environment. There's been a movement to improve the representation of diverse groups in recent decades and diversity is now a core tenet of the work environment. The traditional understanding of diversity is comprised mainly of gender and racial aspects, but the definition has expanded to include other factors, such as disabilities, age, religion and sexual orientation.

Related: Learning about diversity and inclusion: 10 free virtual courses

Equality vs diversity

Equality is where all individuals receive the same opportunities to learn, contribute and succeed. Equality in a workplace means that no individual experiences discrimination due to their culture, gender, age, sex or beliefs. This creates a positive work atmosphere where individuals can safely contribute and produce work without fear of judgement or persecution. When striving for equality, workplaces need to hire a diverse group of individuals who can provide the business with fresh and unique perspectives. Diversity is how a business can achieve equality.

Related: Job search guide: finding companies that value diversity & inclusion

What are the benefits of diversity?

A diverse workplace becomes a way for a business to curate an environment that encourages different opinions and perspectives. Globalisation has changed the scope of today's economic and social state. A diverse workplace reflects what real-life society looks like, therefore allowing a business to curate its products and services with a diverse culture in mind. Here are some other benefits a diverse workplace can bring to a business:

  • Conflict resolution: When there's a diverse group working together to achieve the same goals, they can solve problems much more efficiently than a homogenous one due to the different perspectives and experiences they have. When a team can solve problems quickly and efficiently, they can progress and grow quickly as well, boosting morale and productivity.

  • Bigger talent pool: If an organisation has limitations to its hiring process in favour of keeping a homogenous workplace environment, they may be missing out on capable candidates that can contribute significantly. Talent and productivity do not discriminate and any individual can possess the characteristics to bring success to a company.

  • Larger representation: With diverse talent, a company can accurately pinpoint areas of their product or service that may benefit or appeal to a certain demographic. Without a team that is representative of multiple demographics, a business may risk losing its understanding of its audience.

  • More job applicants: When an organisation has an open and accommodating hiring process, the pool of talent to hire from is much larger. Having more job applications allows an organisation to find the perfect candidate.

Related: 11 effective recruitment strategies for attracting top talent

6 different types of general diversity

There are many different types of diversity to consider and each one of them has specific factors and solutions. Here is some more in-depth information about the different diversity types in the workplace:

1. Ability diversity

Ability diversity is the representation of individuals of various disabilities. Disabilities can refer to those with physical or mental conditions that have an impact on their ability to perform certain tasks. Some disabilities may affect vision, hearing and mobility, all of which are crucial to the productivity of an individual. Accommodating those with disabilities means renovating spaces for wheelchair access, giving employees the chance to consult with a psychiatrist for mental health issues, providing interpreters during meetings or offering courses for niche topics such as sign language or general disability knowledge.

2. Age diversity

Keeping a company free of age discrimination means that it employs individuals of all ages and focuses more on the particular talents of an employee rather than factors like their age. When employees of multiple generations work together, it gives the workforce the chance to learn from each other and provide feedback and opinions from different perspectives. This can also give members of all age groups the chance to learn something new to develop their skillset even further. For example, a younger employee may teach an older one about new technology to use at work.

3. Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity refers to a company considering and being mindful of all individuals' ideals and unique ethnic backgrounds. Culture can include specific traits of a person's upbringing or environment, values they learn from their family or national identity. Having a culturally diverse workplace can encourage team members to learn more about different backgrounds and boost camaraderie and team morale. Another benefit to having a culturally diverse work environment is that the team can learn to be more respectful of other backgrounds and this may reflect positively on business activities such as client negotiation.

4. Gender diversity

Gender diversity is having an equal mix of genders in the workplace. Gender refers to the social construct that revolves around identity, including male, female, nonbinary and transgender. Many people have different experiences and opinions on gender, so inclusivity on the subject in the workplace is crucial to developing interpersonal communication skills regarding the topic. A workplace strives to have a fair representation of all genders so as to have an equal representation of societal demographics.

5. Racial diversity

Race describes the physical characteristics of a person and their genetic or geographic background. Racial diversity and equality have been widely discussed entities for many decades. Yet, still, it's important for organisations to include a healthy balance of all races to ensure a diverse workplace demographic. Today's society is not homogenous. It's crucial to have a workplace that's reflective of the globalisation we experience today, with many different races and cultures.

6. Religious diversity

Religion is the set of spiritual beliefs an individual holds and varies from region to region. A workplace that allows and accommodates all religions sets a positive precedent that the organisation is a safe place to be without prejudice. A way to make the workplace more inclusive for all religious beliefs is to create designated prayer zones or allow individuals time off during the day to dedicate to religious activity.

Related: The difference between diversity and inclusion

4 categories of diversity in the workplace

The different diversity types can be further narrowed down into categories for organisational purposes, such as:

1. Internal diversity

Internal diversity is characteristics and traits that an individual was born into and cannot change. A few examples of internal diversity are:

  • race

  • ethnicity

  • age

  • sexual orientation

  • cultural identity

  • physical ability

  • mental ability

2. External diversity

External diversity is the opposite of internal diversity in that this category consists of personal traits and choices that an individual chooses. Other people, environments and experiences influence external diversity and can shape a person's personality and identity. These traits are changeable over time as a person evolves. External diversity may include:

  • interests

  • appearance

  • religious beliefs

  • relationship status

  • economic status

  • education

3. Organisational diversity

Organisational diversity, also known as functional diversity, refers to the differences that employees have within a company's hierarchy or structure. These are characteristics that distinguish one employee from another. Differences between employees may include pay, job function, responsibilities, seniority or location. When an individual first enters a company, they may be at the bottom of the hierarchy as they familiarise themselves with the culture, they can then develop and grow in the company. Organisational diversity is not a fixed category and is flexible by nature as individuals progress and develop within a company.

4. World view diversity

World view diversity is relatively vague and is personal to each individual as they shape their world view and beliefs according to their life experiences. Factors that may affect world view diversity may be internal, external or organisational as they all influence building personality and beliefs in a person. Each individual conceptualises and experiences the world differently as they learn more about themselves and their surroundings. Some traits of world-view diversity may include:

  • political beliefs

  • moral compass

  • epistemology

  • philosophical beliefs

  • personal values

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