Both of the mentioned positions, largely due to the fact that they are predicated on inarguably ethical considerations, lead one towards the realisation of the degree to which the question raised constitutes an ethical dilemma. While this paper shall tend towards a support of the ethics of achieving workforce diversity, it will only do so following the identification of the issue as an ethical dilemma.
The most straightforward definition of an ethical dilemma is a clash between two goods. If we accept the notion that ethical teaching directs one's actions towards doing that which benefits the good of the majority, rather than that of the minority, then we will begin to comprehend the concept of ethical dilemma as referring to instances wherein two alternate, and even conflicting, decisions may lead to equally good consequences (Crane and Matten, 2003; Lovell and Fisher, 2005; Crane and Matten, 2006). Diversity comprises an ethical dilemma because support for its realisation implies support for and the empowerment of marginalised groups. Objection to it, as in arguments disputing its ethical base, are equally ethical because of their predication on the concept of merit, or the hiring of employees based on theory qualifications, irrespective of ethnicity, race, religion, gender or age (Lovell and Fisher, 2005; Chouinard, 2006). As either of the two positions is, arguably, ethical, a final determination of which of the two is more ethical rests upon the analytical assessment of both perspectives from within the framework of ethics theory.
A review of the literature on workplace diversity reveals that numerous scholars dispute the argument regarding a direct relationship between ethics and the attainment of employee diversity. Referring to these scholars, Mollica (2003) explains that their objections are founded upon commitment to merit and its recognition. Within the business setting, the primary determinant of recruitment should not be race, colour, gender, age, religion or ethnicity but the individual attributes and qualifications of candidates. Should recruitment on the basis of the aforementioned be eschewed in favour of recruitment on the basis of minority group affiliation, not only will firms be ignoring their ethical responsibilities towards their customers and employees but they would be actively engaging in discriminatory practices (Mollica, 2003).
In further explication of the ethical foundations upon which objection to the identification of workforce diversity as an organisational goal is based, Shepard (1993), Swantson (1995) and Nemetz and Christensen (1996) insist that this position is inherently racist. It is racist because it centralises minority group affiliation as a key determinant of employee promotion and candidate selection decisions. By doing so, this position assumes that members of minority groups cannot progress on their own merit and consequent to their own qualifications and potentials. This assumption, needless to say, is inherently racist. Added to that, when the achievement of workforce diversity is defined as an organisational objective, this means that more qualified job or promotion candidates are deliberately overlooked and passed over because of their age, race, ethnicity, religion or gender (Shepard, 1993; Swantson, 1995; Nemetz and Christ