Diversity Issues in the Workplace: Discrimination, Sexism, Ageism & More

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  • 0:01 A Common Problem
  • 0:37 Global Issues
  • 1:28 The Components
  • 4:11 Dealing with It
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn

Rob has an MBA in management, a BS in marketing, and is a doctoral candidate in organizational theory and design.

As our world gets smaller, each workplace becomes more diverse. Understanding how to work with individuals from different backgrounds is important for a successful organization. We will address diversity issues in this lesson

A Common Problem

No matter where your organization is headquartered, there will be a time when every company must deal with discrimination, stereotyping, sexism or ageism. While there is a cultural component to each of these aspects, the overarching viewpoint remains fairly consistent around the world - none of these aspects are considered good or ethical. There are individual cultural components for each of these that could very well come into play depending on where your company is located. Thus, for this lesson, we will talk about each of these categories in a general context.

Global Issues

I want to take a moment to speak about the global differences of these discriminatory aspects. One of the easiest, or the most relevant, ones to bring to light is that sexism potentially is not recognized in some Middle Eastern or Muslim countries because of their cultural perspectives. In these countries and cultures, generally, women are not viewed as equal.

Similarly, there could be stereotype issues between regions and the rest of the country. For instance, Hong Kong was under the rule of Britain for a very long time, though it is now once again part of China. Thus, we could see how Chinese individuals could be a part of a global organization and work with individuals from Hong Kong yet discriminate against them because of their British heritage. This global perspective is present around the world, but for the purposes of this lesson, we will define the individual diversity issues and talk about them in detail.

The Components

First, let's make sure we identify and define each type of discrimination, so we all have a common ground to work with.


This aspect relates to treating people differently based on an unfair or unsubstantiated category. Simplified, it's denying the fair treatment of a person, which is prompted by some preconceived notion of who you think the person is. This can often be seen with race, nationality or religious affiliations. Not very nice, is it?

As an example, let's look at Tom, who believes teenagers as a whole are disruptive. He owns a shoe store. Each time Tom meets a teenager, he automatically discriminates against that person, believing he or she will be disruptive and loud. Because of this, he refuses to hire any teenagers to work in his store. He is discriminating against them.


Much like discrimination, stereotyping looks at individuals or people and generalizes them without thinking about any individual differences. We just looked at Tom, who discriminated against teenagers. In many ways, he stereotyped all teenagers into one group and then discriminated against them.


Sexism is a type of discrimination where predetermined ideas and thoughts are projected upon a person based on their sexual orientation or gender. Typically, this issue deals with males versus females, but it can go in just about any one of a number of directions.

For example, Harold is a football player. He also happens to be a homosexual. All the other players on his team do not want to shower when Harold is in the room. This is a type of sexism. On the other hand, Jake wants to work for the franchise. However, Jake doesn't like contact sports and instead wants to join the cheerleading team. The players on the team, including Harold, tease Jake for joining the cheerleaders. This is also sexism since cheerleading is believed to be predominately a female sport.


Ageism is very much like sexism only because it comes into question a specific aspect of an individual - in this case, age. Remember Tom? He doesn't want to hire teenagers because he thinks they are disruptive. He also believes they are immature, loud and moody. Yes, this is stereotyping and discrimination, but because Tom is over 40, this is also ageism. He believes that people of a certain age group cannot do the same job that another group can do.

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