History of Diversity in the Workplace
Diversity is not a new term, but it is a somewhat new topic in the workplace. So why is it important? Where did it come from?
From the birth of the United States, the workforce was commonly seen as a white male environment. This started to change slowly because of different historical events over time. Women joined the workforce during war time. The abolishment of slavery and civil rights laws supported minorities joining the workforce and earning a stronger voice in the process.
The following are major points in history that dramatically increased diversity in the workplace:
- President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declaring the freedom of slaves and the 13th Amendment that followed was adopted in 1865 outlawing slavery.
- In 1913, Henry Ford offered $5 a day (twice the typical daily wage) to attract immigrants and African Americans. By 1916 Ford's employees represented 62 nationalities, and he also employed over 900 people with disabilities.
- Women joined the workforce in great numbers in 1917 when American men went to war.
- The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor formed in 1920.
- President Harry S. Truman integrated the military in 1948.
- In 1961, President John F. Kennedy improved hiring practices for women and established maternity leave.
- In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was signed, which made it illegal to pay a woman less than a man for the same job.
- President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which prohibits discrimination in many aspects of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Americans continue to evolve and strive towards a discrimination-free world and a successful work environment. There are many more equal opportunity laws in place now which help promote diversity, but these do not guarantee equality in the workplace. The responsibility falls on each and every employee to protect and respect one another.