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Research Points to Gaps in “Diversity Intelligence” Among Workplace Leaders

by | Jul 2, 2018 | Research News

Not all workplace supervisors have a thorough understanding of discrimination laws that protect minority and other protected classes of workers, according to new research from the University of Arkansas.

The researchers found that while most focus groups participants were familiar with the concepts, one third could not list all the types of protected class employees. When asked if they had observed others in their workplace being “recklessly stubborn against application of laws and orders protecting employees in the workplace,” half said they had.

Protected classes are groups of people identified and protected by federal law, based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, and family medical history and genetic information.

Claretha Hughes, professor of human resource and workforce development, and Lucy Brown, clinical assistant professor of journalism, conducted focus groups of professionals with supervisory experience from a range of fields, including corporations, non-profits and academic institutions. Their findings were published in June in Advances in Developing Human Resources.

Hughes said an understanding of protected class employees is fundamental to diversity intelligence, the ability to understand the value of diversity in the workplace and use that knowledge to guide thinking and behavior. Intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence are all recognized as important qualities for workplace leaders, and can be quantified using research-validated tools. Hughes’ goal is to create a similar tool to evaluate diversity intelligence.

“My ultimate goal is to help leaders see each individual employees based on merit,” she explained. “Embracing diversity intelligence is a real advantage, because it promotes optimum contribution among all employees.”

About The Author

Camilla Shumaker is the director of science and research communications. She writes about physics, chemistry, political science and other topics. Camilla can be reached at or (479) 575-7422.

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