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Diversity is the presence of a wide range of variation in the qualities or attributes under discussion.


Human context

Amongst humans, particularly in a social context, the term diversity refers to the presence in one population of a (wide) variety of

Possible attitudes to this situation are discussed in Diversity#Politics.

Planetary context

At the international level, diversity refers to the existence of many peoples contributing their unique experiences to humanity's culture. The preservation of our planet's formidable linguistic and cultural diversity in the context of world wide economic integration is the object of great concern to many people in the wake of the 21st century.


Stop! The neutrality of this section is disputed.

It is often used in conjunction with the term tolerance in political creeds which support the idea that "diversity," as the term is used by social liberals, is valuable and desirable.

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It is important to note that the term "diversity" has no fixed definition upon which sociologists can agree. Many critics of diversity claim that in the political arena, diversity is a code word for forcing people to tolerate or approve people and practices with whom they might not otherwise voluntarily associate. Other critics point out that diversity programs in education and business inherently emphasize some minority groups (e.g. blacks, Hispanics, and homosexuals) and do not give equal time to groups (e.g. Jewish immigrants, Filipinos, Asian-Americans, and European immigrants) which lack the "disadvantaged" label. These critics claim that pluralism is a more accurate term for the presence of variation, and that, under the banner of "diversity," groups actually forbid criticism of groups that are, in essence, privileged by their minority status. Many politicians, such as Tony Blair, José Luis Zapatero and Gerhard Schröder have praised the ambiguous concept of diversity.

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However, many critics now argue that cultural diversity may not actually strengthen an overall business or social climate. Supporters of the contention that "diversity" is a social goal worth sacrificing for would counter that cultural diversity may aid communication between people of different backgrounds and lifestyles, although this is actually a postfactum argument. Modern critics of diversity have found that in bringing people together in a forced way often results in some breakdown of social cohesion, especially when the perception exists that diversity goals take precedence over quality in hiring, contracting, and/or academic admissions.

"Diversity" is a confusing term in American politics since no single ethnic group can claim majority status in the United States. When the "Caucasian" label is broken down into its component parts, dramatic differences can be seen between those of Arab (including Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian), Celtic, Dutch, Armenian, German, Persian, Hebrew, and Eastern European descent, all of whom share the overly broad label of "Caucasian."

"Respect for Diversity" is one of the six principles of the Global Greens Charter, a manifesto of Green parties from all over the world subscribed to.

In this political context, the word diversity is also somewhat meaningless or differently understood outside of North America: for example in the UK and most parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the US concept of diversity does not wholly exist as there is no form of US-styled affirmative action programs. This is not to say that others are not supportive of the underlying agenda of US diversity, but it is usually described with different words, such as the terms "respect", "tolerance" and "multi-culturalism."

Diversity is also a euphemism for individuals or groups thereof who are not of European descent, especially if any such person is of African descent. For example, the National Football League's "Diversity Committee" has imposed a mandate overtly favoring African Americans by fining organizations who do not interview enough African Americans for positions which have been historically dominated by whites. There is no such policy imposed for failure to ethnically diversify positions, such as wide receiver, running back, and defensive back, which are traditionally dominated by blacks. In other words, the "diversity committee" is concerned with coaches and coordinators, but not with positions that are nearly 100% black.

This use of "diversity" as a buzzword also extends to academia, wherein an attempt to create a "diverse student body" invariably boils down to "recruit more African-American students" and rarely, if ever, to "recruit more Jewish students" (for example), even if a given campus might have far more of the former than the latter.

Modernly, the term "diversity" is now used to encompass a much wider range of criteria than merely racial or ethnic classifications. The term is now used to express dimensions of diversity such as age diversity, religious diversity, philosophical diversity, and political diversity.

Ecological context

Diversity describes the structure of ecological communities. This does not only involve the number of species, but also the number of individuals of each species. Several Diversity indices have been established, amongst which the Shannon-Weaver Diversity Index is frequently used (see also biodiversity).

Radio and telecommunications

Diversity reception refers to a technique of monitoring multiple frequencies from the same signal source, or multiple radios and antennas monitoring the same frequency, in order to combat signal fade and interference (see also Antenna diversity).

Business context

In a business context, diversity is approached as a strategy for improving employee retention and increasing consumer confidence. The "business case for diversity", as it is often phrased, is that in a global and diverse marketplace, a company whose makeup mirrors the makeup of the marketplace it serves is better equipped to thrive in that marketplace than a company whose makeup is homogenous. Another part of the business case is how well a company utilizes its diversity. This is often referred to as inclusion. If a company is diverse in makeup, but all the decision makers are of one primary group, diversity does not add much value. Business diversity consultants and diversity trainers often treat the social consequences of diversity as secondary; their primary focus is to enable the company to function in a heterogeneous or global economy. Companies with diversity programs are usually national or international in scope, or are composed of large groups of workers who come from differing backgrounds. Having both Wikipedia and Wikinfo can be seen as similar to this kind of diversity.

Different kinds of diversity exist, e.g. superficial diversity (e.g. differences in gender, ethnicity, nationality) and deep-level diversity (e.g. differences in knowledge and differences in values) (Harrison et al, 2001 or 2002; Jehn et al 1999). Increasing amounts of interaction between individuals reduce the importance of superficial diversity and increase the importance of deep-level diversity. With regard to superficial diversity: its negative effects are stronger to the extent that a faultline develops, separating a group into clear subgroups. This occurs when observable characteristics of individuals in a group correlate, e.g. all the marketeers in a group are young and female, whereas the engineers are old and male (Lau and Murnighan, 1998, 2005). With regard to deep level diversity, informational diversity (differences in knowledge base) has been found to have positive impact on performance, but value diversity (differences in what individuals find important) has been found to have negative impact (Jehn et al 1999)

Certain processes in groups help to get the benefits of informational diversity. First, it is essential that individuals with diverse sources of knowledge share their unique perspectives with others. This does not always occur as groups tend to preferably discuss not unique information, but common information, i.e. information held by multiple group members (Stasser et al 1992). To increase the odds that unique perspectives are shared it is important to create an awareness in the group about who has access to what knowledge (see work on transactive memory systems). Second, apart from information sharing it is important to foster debate: critically challenging and defending the unique perspectives of group members. With such deep information processing positive performance consequences are more likely to result (see Simons, Pelled et al 1999). Source: academic papers in Academy of Management Journal and Administrative Science Quarterly 1998-2005.

The term is also used in the context of investing. Experts universally agree that investors should diversify their portfolios, meaning that they should invest in multiple companies, industries, and mediums (eg. stocks, bonds) so as to reduce the risk of a financial disaster wrought by the significant decline in value of a specific investment.

Evolutionary computation

Variation between individuals in the population; typically, diversity refers to genetic variation. In bit string genetic algorithms, diversity may be measured by Hamming distance (i.e. counting the number of bits that are different) between bit strings. Genetic programming defines variety in the population by the number of unique programs it contains, but this measure takes no notice of the fact that the behaviour of genetically different programs can be very similar or even identical (Foundations of Genetic Programming).

Recently, research papers have suggested more sophisticated ways of measuring diversity.

Texas Instruments Diversity Initiatives

TI has yet another lawsuit filed against it, Valley vs. Texas Instruments (Civil Action 3-04CV-1381L). In this case, Valley observed that TI began recruiting and hiring teams of young engineers (including some recent graduates from U.S. universities) who were born in India. The older American Citizen engineers (of all races) working at TI were directed to train the younger Asian-Indian engineers, their replacements. Then, the older American Citizen engineers were RIFed (Reduction In Force, TI's term for terminated). Finally, a widespread campaign was launched to recruit the young Asian-Indian engineers to return to India. "Come back to India for the very same reason you left." was TI's campaign slogan in internal newsletters and large newspaper ads (for example The Dallas Morning News) to recruit and repatriate the India-born engineers back to India. Few American Citizen are allowed to enter and work in India. See - http://www.ti.com/recruit/docs/india.shtml

Valley alleges that TI was 'ramping-up' its Bangalore, India engineering facility, doubling in size yearly, and needed to train the engineers at its facility in Dallas, Texas. When the India-born engineers left the U.S. to return to India, their engineering functions (whole departments) left the U.S. permanently for Bangalore. Valley alleges that TI practiced race and national-origin discrimination by displaying a preference for Asian-Indian employees and marking non-Asian-Indian employees for termination.

Valley observed many TI Diversity Initiatives at TI, including the Indian Diversity Initiative which provided management mentoring, support on immigration issues, special training, etc. Valley recognized that the Indian Diversity Initiative was a pretext used by TI to facilitate and expedite the development of an infrastructure of Asian-Indian employees for repatriation back to India. Valley also recognized that the Indian Diversity Initiative was being used by TI to intimidate the American Citizen employees from complaining about the methodical replacement of American Citizens with Asian-Indians. Using the Minority equals Diversity pretext, the assertion was that anyone objecting to the replacement of an American Citizen by an Asian-Indian must be racially prejudiced. This effectively kept the American Citizens under control until they could be terminated.

Valley announced that he was going to form an Older Employee Diversity Initiative for employees over 40 years of age. Valley recognized that Diversity is different from Minority, nevertheless older employees had become a minority at TI. Valley began seeking sponsorship from a TI VP, a TI requirement. Several VPs were contacted and declined. Six weeks later, Valley was terminated for the pre-textual reason of 'using company private information inappropriately'. The private information was evidence provided to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to support Valley's formal complaint of age, race, and national origin discrimination. The Older Employee Diversity Initiative was never formed.

See Valley vs. TI, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, 3:04-CV-1381-L

Marine Vessels

Diversity is the name of an old wooden ship used in the Civil War, captained by Ron Burgundy based out of San Diego, California.

See also

  • Respect diversity
  • Wood, Peter. Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, Encounter Books, 2002.
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