America has always been a distinction for individuals seeking prosperity. After the Civil War, America’s growing economy required more workers. This needed was filled by immigrants. Between 1866 and 1915, approximately 25 million immigrants arrived on its shores. These immigrants came from diverse backgrounds (such as England, Germany, Poland, Russia and Scandinavian countries). The additional labor force helped fuel the American economy.
Yet, this diversity was not without its own problems. Due to the culture differences and language barriers among ethnic groups, there were frequent conflicts to resolve. Furthermore, most of these workers were poor and uneducated; this created pressures on government and nonprofit services to fix or minimize these problems.
Today, we face similar problems. Globalization has connected us with the rest of the world. Cultural awareness bears down on us. Immigration is the hot topic. Federal and local governments struggle to deal with this politically sensitive issue. Many experts feel there are millions of illegal immigrants flooding our borders.
Some fear terrorist attacks while other people are just anxious. Many local governments, such as Arizona, try to fight back. For example, there are about 30 states with English-only laws. Yet, can anyone really stop demographic shifts? A recent Department of Labor report, Futurework: Trends and Challenges for the Work in the 21st Century, notes the following:
- By 2050, minority groups will makeup half of the population
- Immigrants will account for almost two-thirds of the population
- One-quarter of the population will be of Hispanic origin
- Almost one in ten Americans will be of Asian or Pacific Islander decent
As American businesses expand globally, today’s managers need to understand how diversity will impact their organizations. Given the winds of the future, leaders must forge their organizations into global transformers. Unfortunately, an individual’s biases, prejudices, and stereotypes can often cloud his or her decision-making. Anne Tsui and Barbara Gutek, authors of Demographic Differences in Organizations, further argue individuals within a particular category may have a different experience in a similar situation. These demographic changes will reshape organizational culture.
In fact, it speaks to disruptive change in society. Many critics of implementing diversity initiatives argue that the market should dictate who gets medical services, employment, and education. Therefore, effective leaders will need to integrate cultural and global awareness into their overall organizational strategies.
What impacts will these demographic changes outlined in Futurework produce? How do occupations such as physicians turn these demographical changes into opportunities?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green