From my reading and study "workplace diversity" seems to have been around for a while. Even though the phrase "workplace diversity" has been used for almost 20 years, there are still many misunderstandings about what the phrase means. I believe the diversity professionals are to blame for much of this confusion. For one thing, early in the field's evolution, there did not appear to be enough effort put forth to distinguish diversity from Affirmative Action. Somewhere along the line, the impression was created that legal efforts to hire diverse applicants (Affirmative Action) were directly linked to voluntary programs to provide an environment in which all employees can function successfully ("workplace diversity"). .
Now, the more successful Affirmative Action is, the more diversity there will be and, therefore, a greater need for diversity efforts. What needs to be made clear, though, is that diversity work must happen even if Affirmative Action programs are eliminated. It also needs to be clarified that it is possible to philosophically disagree with Affirmative Action and be downright evangelical about diversity. It is the link to Affirmative Action that prevents some leaders from fully supporting diversity programs. By clarifying that the two strategies are complementary rather than identical, support can be encouraged. .
Another misunderstanding about diversity is that it is designed to benefit only women and so-called minorities. It's important to recognize that since each of us is a unique human being, diversity has to do with us all. The goal of diversity programs is to see to it that everyone in an organization has the opportunity to thrive. Admittedly, if a given organization has been remiss in its treatment of a particular group, then emphasis needs to be on improving that group's situation.
The most damaging misunderstanding about diversity is the misguided belief that diversity efforts require lowering standards for hiring and promotions.