Diversity.  For me, when I hear the word diversity, I think of where I live.  Delaware is a very diverse state demographically.  I would love to have cited numbers for our diversity, but, “Due to the lapse in government funding, sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.” (US Census Bureau, 10/11/13) .  So I will share my anecdotal take on diversity!

In Delaware when I go to the mall, or the Y, or the airport, I see people of different races and ethnicities, different ages and genders.  The key term here is different.  That is truly what diversity means – it means different.  Diversity relating to teams is much the same concept, just broken down a little bit more concretely.  Forsyth defines the diversity of a team as “the extent to which members are different from one another” (Forsyth, p. 413) .   He states that team diversity is captured in six categories – social categories, knowledge and skills, values and beliefs, personality, status, and social connection.  These categories can contain the following types of diversity, as shown in the table created by Mannix and Neale (2005) :


Types of Diversity

Social Category differences

Race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, physical abilities

Differences in knowledge or skills

Educational, functional knowledge, information, expertise, training, experiences, abilities

Differences in values or beliefs

Cultural background, ideological beliefs, political orientation

Personality differences

Cognitive style, affective disposition, motivational factors

Organizational or community-status differences

Tenure or length of service, title

Differences in social and network ties

Work-related ties, friendship ties, community ties, ingroup membership

So as we see from the previous table, a team can be diverse in many, many ways.  Let’s look at the Wilmington University Women’s Soccer team.  We have a team that appears homogenous at first glance; having same-age females coming from the same educational setting, with the same training, and all but one young woman

Wilmu womens soccer

Wilmington University Women's Soccer Team, 2013

appears Caucasian.   It would be tempting to say that this group is not very diverse just from looking at what we see on the surface.

However, this is premature.  We would have to study their personalities to determine what their cognitive styles are, what motivates them, where they work, who their friends are, etc.  Chances are, this group is much more heterogenous than we realize by just looking at them.

Let’s talk for a moment about the value of diversity on teams.  Forsyth states, “diversity is a mixed blessing for teams” (p. 414 ).  On the one hand, teams whose members are diverse in the knowledge and skills category may generate more ideas in problem solving.  This requires a higher up-front investment of time to sort through these ideas than it would require in a homogenous group setting, but the end result will most likely be better performance of the tasks the team is charged with.  Indeed, in a meta-analysis done by Horwitz and Horwitz in 2008 , a positive relationship was found between task-related diversity and team performance.

Teams that are more diverse do tend to suffer in the area of the cohesiveness of their team.  Think about it – the more ideas you have, the more likely it is that team members will disagree about which one is best.  Or if a team is diverse racially, the cultural differences the members have may polarize them to the point where they can get nothing done.

As individuals, we live in a global world now.  Because teams are made up of individuals, this is true for teams as well, which brings the issue of diversity into the forefront.  There is a plethora of information available on the Internet on diversity in teams.  In fact, there is still much debate over what actually constitutes diversity – is it the categories in the table developed by Mannix and Neale, or is it simpler than that, based strictly on things we can see?  I believe that diversity is, indeed, all the categories noted above, not just simply what’s visible and what’s not. 



I'd like to conclude my article on diversity in teams by discussing the video from my work, Practice Without Pressure .  This video shows an extremely diverse team engaging in a difficult task in a very cohesive way.  If we break down the video by the six categories of diversity stated above, we see significant differences in all six categories - we are diverse racially and in age, we have vastly different educational experiences and skills, our ideological beliefs and cultural backgrounds are different, our cognitive styles are very different, we have the CEO working with a dental assistant, so organizationally we differ greatly, and finally we have extremely different social networks and friendships.  Yet this team is functioning in a highly cohesive manner, working together on the task of helping this man practice getting a filling done on his tooth.  I attribute this to the team being homogenous in two very important aspects - each team member has a deep commitment to what we do at Practice Without Pressure , and we all share the motivation to help this man get through this procedure.  The commitment and motivation override any cohesion issues the team may have.

Djast45372 (talk) 14:17, October 12, 2013 (UTC)  

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