Managing DiversityOverview

Managing Diversity Overview

CPD Assessments
Managing Diversity Overview

Managing Diversity Overview

How can Career Development Practitioners (CDPs) manage diversity?

  • Understand individual differences related to gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, physical and mental capacities.
  • Recognise diversity in terms of culture, values, skills, attributes and circumstances.
  • Identify how aspects of diversity impact on career choice.
  • Identify special needs in respect of career choices.
  • Stay up to date with issues pertaining to diversity.
  • Develop a database and network of education providers who specialise in special needs/disabilities training.
  • Develop a database and network of employers for special needs clients/clients living with disabilities.

Case study:

There will be some comments and questions relating to this case study, so bear that in mind as you continue.

John is late for his appointment with his CDP, Henry. The career centre is busy and there are many school buses and taxis filling the driveway and parking bays outside the centre. Besides struggling to get through the parking area, John had to wait at the elevator (lift) for the crowd of Grade 9 learners to go up to the next level. He is so stressed because he hates being late.

John eventually arrives at Henry’s desk 10 minutes after 14h00 and Henry is relieved to see him. John makes an apology for the wait, but Henry was totally expecting that, because he knew John could not use the stairs since he uses a wheelchair. Henry instead apologises, because he should have come down the stairs and made the learners give John a turn at the lift earlier.

Once they realise that there is no problem, they continue with the session and cover everything they need to in time, because Henry has collected research on a skills training centre where John could complete his welding certificate he is so keen on.

This case study highlights managing diversity. Hopefully, you strive to be a CDP that values diversity like Henry. The following information, tips, guidelines and questions will assist you.


Diversity could be defined as “anything” that sets one individual apart from another. According to sources “Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from varying types of demographic and philosophical differences”.

It is extremely important to support and protect diversity, because by valuing individuals we can foster a climate where equity and mutual respect are deeply felt. We thereby create a success-oriented, cooperative, and caring community, that draws intellectual strength and produces innovative solutions from the cooperation of its people.

"Diversity" means more than just acknowledging and tolerating difference. Diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve:

  • Understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures and the natural environment.
  • Practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own.
  • Understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being, but also ways of knowing.
  • Recognising that personal, cultural and institutionalised discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some, while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others.
  • Building alliances across differences, so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.

Career development was born out of the social justice movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Social justice remains a core value of career development services. Social justice recognises the uniqueness of individuals, i.e. every individual is different. Dealing with people from diverse backgrounds is integral to the work of CDPs.

Diversity impacts the career development of people in various ways including living with disabilities, personal characteristics, beliefs, values, gender expectations and access to opportunities.

Multicultural support involves two main parts:

  • An understanding of the clients’ worldview.
  • The recognition of the CDPs own cultural values and bias.

A CDP must recognise any previously held ideas that they might have about different ages, genders, ethnicities, races, sexual orientation, physical capabilities, mental capabilities, culture, attributes, skills, circumstances, etc. to work successfully with diverse clients.

Impact of diversity on career choice

Career choices can be constrained by:

  • socialisation,
  • access to guidance and assessment,
  • self-stereotypes,
  • isolation from networks,
  • lack of developmental feedback or mentors,
  • discrimination,
  • limited access to training, etc.

It is imperative for the CDP to understand:

  • individual personalities,
  • one’s values and beliefs,
  • skills, interests and abilities,

and match these variables with appropriate potential careers. In the case study Henry was kind to John and accepted that John had a career dream. Henry followed that idea and found a solution for his client.

CDPs should step out of their comfort zones and research and explore further with diverse individuals. Communication is important here. As different people have different backgrounds, native language, cultural frameworks, etc., the CDP needs to speak very specifically. Vague communication can be misinterpreted. Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation.  Failure to manage diversity within practice could result in the practitioner not meeting the client’s needs. A practitioner also risks offending or misjudging the client. A CDP therefore needs to constantly be up-to-date with issues relating to diversity, interest groups and legislation.

Database and network of stakeholders

A database is a collection of data organised for storage, accessibility and retrieval. With databases, data can be stored externally and backed up in a secure place to prevent data loss. Databases ensure quick and easy access to information.

A strong network of education providers specialising in special needs training needs to be developed, as well as a database for clients living with disabilities. A database of non-profit organisations providing services to clients with disabilities, such as transport, reasonable accommodation devices, work experience, life skills development and work adjustment can also assist in the referral process, to deliver a more holistic service.  

Did you notice how in the case study Henry helped John by finding the exact service he needed to build his career dream?

Identify options for differently-abled persons in terms of career choices

CDPs should ideally build a list of career choices that can help persons with different abilities, for example blindness. It might help to identify the mental, physical and emotional requirements of career types and connect it to the personal attributes involved in the type of disability. Research the career possibilities and start building relationships with people who have tried careers that need something specific, e.g. persons with hearing impairment are not easily distracted by sound and noise and this amplifies their concentration. In the motor industry they have started employing spray painters, because of this ability. Persons with different abilities also have special requirements in terms of reasonable accommodation to prosper in studies, work and living. Persons with the same disability, for example deafness, will differ in terms of the degree of their disability from each other and the reasonable accommodation required, therefore it is important to let them state their own reasonable accommodation needs.   

Mismanagement of diversity

Integration across multicultural teams can be difficult in the face of prejudice or negative cultural stereotypes. History can assist mankind to learn from mistakes made by people in the past. A strong lesson learned is that we cannot go forward without embracing and accepting diversity. If a CDP wants to create lasting change, it is necessary to let go of self-limiting beliefs and to cultivate empowering beliefs that support the CDPs growth and the growth of their client.

Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 South Africa (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA) 

This means you can share and adapt this work but not for commercial purposes. You will only need to include the following reference to the original content in all shared works.

Kindly attribute as follows:

Beukes, C. J., Mahadave, K., & Kanhai, K. (2022). Professional Development Portfolio for Career Development Practitioners (1st ed.)CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA, 


Karuna Mahadave

Christopher John Beukes

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