Challenges of diversity: Positives and negatives

cultural differences in today’s world. Then explain two ways you might address those challenges in your professional life. Support your responses using current literature.

Challenges of diversity: Positives and negatives

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Affirmative action embodies many of the paradoxes of the diversity of American society. On one hand, America has long proclaimed itself a land of freedom and equality. However, for many years, African-Americans and other minority groups were discriminated against, resulting in economic, educational, as well as political disenfranchisement. Affirmative action, or taking race into consideration to promote a more diverse environment in schools and in the workplace, is one way to create a fairer and more pluralistic society. It reflects the fact that persons who are privileged in America have historically come from specific races, classes, and ethnicities. However, many people believe that affirmative action’s use of racial preference is, in effect, a form of discrimination itself. The courts have tried to tread a delicate balance of not outlawing affirmative action entirely while still protecting the rights of individuals, regardless of color. For example, in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) the U.S. Supreme Court “rejected the use of racial quotas but said that schools could consider race as part of a ‘holistic’ review of a student’s application” (Condon 2012).

This has still not proved a satisfactory solution for some. There is always a question of which minority groups should be protected. Asian-Americans, for example, may be disproportionately represented relative to their composition of the population some universities, despite the fact that they have been discriminated against in the past. Some affirmative action policies have hurt Asian-Americans; it was alleged in the U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. Texas, if Asian-Americans are deemed to be overrepresented at a university. In the case of Fisher, “the university’s use of race in admissions discriminates against Asian-Americans, who are deemed to be ‘over-represented.’ Asian-American civil rights organizations filed briefs on both sides of the case,” reflecting the contentiousness of the statement (Hsu 2012).

Of course, the term ‘Asian-American’ is a broad one, reflecting persons of vastly different class backgrounds and histories. A is deemed ‘Asian-American,’ as is a from Cambodia who learned English as her second language. Identity contains components of ethnicity, class, and a particular group’s history and position within American culture. Diversity clearly should reflect all of these factors, including diversity of gender, sexual orientation, and different ‘able-ness,’ but creating a policy which truly creates a more level playing field and reflects American society without arbitrary quotas has proven to be a challenge.

It should be noted that not all societies value diversity as a positive value. In Japan, cohesion and homogeneity — partially a reflection of the nation’s island status and its isolation — has tended to be prioritized over diversity throughout the nation’s history. One of the most controversial debates regarding diversity has been the status of ethnic Koreans in Japan. “In the first quarter-century following World War II, ethnic Koreans in Japan continued to face systematic exclusion and discrimination — in education, employment, housing, and marriage. Barred from all public-sector jobs and prestigious professions and occupations” (Moon 2012). However, in recent years, Japan has begun to embrace diversity as a value. “Both pressure from the international community as well as from domestic social groups increased awareness and changed Japanese attitudes about discrimination towards ethnic minorities” (Moon 2012). More women are also assuming power within Japanese corporations. In 2006, of “750 new employees Matsushita Electric30 were non-Japanese; of the 100 non-engineering positions, close to half were filled by women, according to the company. Nissan also boasted a 50-50 ratio of women to men for last year” (Tanikawa 2012). According to Nissan: “to meet the diverse needs in the global market, you need to have diversity in the composition of your employees” (Tanikawa 2012).


Condon, Stephanie. (2012). U.S. Supreme Court takes up affirmative action. CBS News.


Hsu, Andrea. (2012). Asian-Americans face dilemma in debate over affirmative action.

NPR. Retrieved:

Moon, Rene. (2012). Koreans in Japan. Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural

Education. Retrieved:

Tanikawa, Miki. (2007). Japanese companies embrace diversity. The New York Times.


First Response:

Two current challenges that may arise from cultural differences in today’s world are the subjectivity of culture as well as the difficultly in measuring cultural values and beliefs. Because culture is so subjective, it is hard to compare and contrast differences within beliefs and values, especially when many of them are so intangible and hard to measure. We can describe and examine similarities and differences across cultures via cross-cultural research but we also have to include multicultural research which can be very complex (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2010). Humans are members of multiple social groups and have diverse roles. We need to acknowledge all of them. Unfortunately this is much easier said than done. Understanding how all the pieces come together to explain a person’s behavior, is very complex. Again, cultural differences are hard to compare because who is to say what is better or what is wrong in comparison to another. Culture is very subjective and one who is not immersed in a certain culture will really struggle to understand another perspective unless they are fully educated and knowledgeable. Sometimes this is even near to impossible when you are an outsider looking in. And when one is immersed in a certain culture, it can be difficult to be unbiased because you are a part of this culture and do not know otherwise.

Addressing these issues is not an easy task. The first step would be to erase any bias one might have when conducting research. Certain expectations and biases will get in the way of obtaining accurate results. Cultural competence is significant. It includes, according to Harvard University, a researcher’s understanding of his/her participants and awareness of how one’s beliefs affect his/her actions within the research design, conduct, and interpretation (2009). For me personally, I believe all of this applies. I am not the most cultured of people as I have lived in New England my whole life. I have learned a lot through my academics in regards to cultural differences, but more training and education would be had, if I decided to conduct cross-cultural research. I don’t plan on doing so, so this won’t really be an issue for me, but I am aware that this would be a first step before any work in the area is done. Cultural sensitivity and awareness is very important and requires an individual to step out of his/her comfort zone. Cross-cultural developments have been found to have a profound impact on our views on human behavior (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2010).


Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H.R. (2010). Social psychology. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

The Harvard Clinical and Translation Science Center (2009). Cultural Competence in Research. Retrieved on February 10, 2013 from


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