Management Development That Values Diversity

Article excerpt

Management Development That Values Diversity

This model can help HR professionals eliminate bias and stereotypes in their management development programs. The HR manager has entered a decade of change. The profile of the stereotypic manager--hard-driving, white, male, head of a household--is changing fast. Women and minority members are entering the ranks of the managerial workforce at lightning speed. Projections made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 70% of new hires this year will be women or members of minority groups. As the workforce changes, new barriers to success and concerns uniquely affecting these new managers are arising. The evolving definition of the manager calls for a critical review of our present management training and development programs.

Most HR managers have already been forced to address the issues of sexism and racism in the workplace or the pressures on dual-career couples and working parents. And many organizations already have programs in place that aim to help new managers who don't match the white, male stereotype to fit in with the company and their co-workers. But too often these programs start with the assumption that there is something wrong with these new, different managers; their differentness is viewed as a problem to be overcome. Such an approach may reinforce the very prejudices and biases that present obstacles to these managers' success.

It is time to move beyond the two separate approaches--personal growth and organizational reform--that dominated the training and development of women and minority managers during the 1970s and 1980s. We need to take a more comprehensive, integrated approach to management development: one that objectively assesses individual training and development needs and openly addresses issues affecting all of today's managers. In this article we present a new model for training and development that fosters the breaking of stereotypes and the acceptance of every manager as an individual who can make a unique contribution to the company.

The Great Debate

During the 1960s and early 1970s, recognition of the trend toward greater diversity in the managerial workforce spawned debate among researchers over the best way to integrate the managerial pool. Because some new managers did not fit the stereotype of the effective manager, some researchers supported the need for "catch-up" or "add-on" training to ease their integration. In keeping with this personal growth model, many organizations developed career development programs, assertiveness training, and leadership skills seminars specifically for women and minority managers.

Other researchers documented the fact that women and minority members were often discriminated against in managerial recruitment, selection, training, and promotion. In the 1970s, many organizations responded to these findings by adopting organizational reform strategies that aim to prevent discrimination and reward sponsorship of women and minority members; witness affirmative action programs and changes in the distribution of opportunities and power.

Then, too, many organization took these steps in order to avoid liability in a legal climate that frequently was unfavorable to the employer who practiced discrimination. But the legal climate has changed, and many such programs now face waning commitment in organizations no longer under the gun from federal mandates.

In recent years, personal growth models of change have frequently been criticized for perpetuating the notion that inequities at work are somehow caused by the individual who experiences discrimination. They have also been criticized for reinforcing the idea that women and members of minority groups need to remedy "deficiencies" before assuming managerial roles.

Although personal growth programs can build self-esteem or provide a support system, they cannot guarantee career advancement or acceptance by colleagues. …