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Diversity Management: A Closer Look at the Amish Culture

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Diversity Management: A Closer Look at the Amish Culture

Brandi S. Woodard

Wayland Baptist University

July 15, 2011

Diversity Management is becoming a very strong topic for managers in corporate America. More and more people are finding out that the topics of conversation that used to be acceptable are no longer. Refusing to hire someone based on a reason such as age, gender, religion, i.e. is considered discrimination. There are many rules that an organization must follow now in order to avoid legal action. When looking at the Amish culture there are many different aspects that an Amish employee and their employer would have to adjust in order to gain employment and integrate into the workplace. First, it is necessary to take a look at the culture and how it came to be.

The people of the Amish culture are direct descendants of the Anabaptists of 16th century Europe. They speak a German dialect, Pennsylvania Dutch, but also speak English. Their population is approximately 150,000 and they are spread over as many as 24 states with 80% residing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. There are as many as eight different Amish orders, but there are five that communities are most commonly affiliated with; Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Andy Weaver Amish, Beachy Amish, and Swartzentruber Amish. The orders operate independently from one another with differences in how they practice religion and conduct their daily lives.

The Amish attire is meant to encourage humility and separation from the rest of the world. The men wear straight cut suits and coats without collars. Trousers never have a cuff or crease and are worn with suspenders. Belts, sweaters neckties and gloves are forbidden. Young men are clean shaven before marriage and married men are required to grow out their beards. Amish women wear solid-color dresses with long sleeves and a full skirt covered with a cape and apron. If they have a black bonnet on it symbolizes that they are unmarried, and a white bonnet symbolizes that are married; they never cut their hair. They wear stocking that are black cotton with shoes that are also black. They are not permitted to wear patterns or jewelry, and all clothing is handmade.

The cuisine of the Amish is very simple; anything that can be grown, raised, and made easily. They do not possess refrigerators or conventional ovens. They make their own bread, jams, butter, and so on. Their typical day is usually spent tending to all the things that make their livelihood. The man of the house would get up about five a.m., go to the barn and feed the animals, milk the cows and process the milk to the cans for truck delivery to the local dairy. He would then join the family for prayer and breakfast. Depending on the season, he would work in the fields, preparing the fields for planting (late winter), planting the crops in the spring or harvesting the crops in late summer or fall. He usually works from sunup to sunset in the fields for planting and harvesting with a break for lunch. In the evening, the cows would need to be milked again. The wife would also get up about five a.m., help with the milking, prepare breakfast, and if laundry day (usually on Monday) get the gasoline motor started on her wringer washing machine do the laundry, hanging them out on the line to dry. She would work in the kitchen garden, preparing it for planting (with help from her husband), or harvesting vegetables for meals. If there are children, she would also get them ready for school, including packing lunch boxes, etc. Daytime household duties would be done, i.e., ironing, washing dishes by hand, baking, and cooking lunch and dinner. Depending on the season, she would can fruit and vegetables, making jams and jellies, etc. She will also sew clothes for herself, her husband and their children; both work schedules will vary according to the season and weather. Of course, on Sundays, the family attends church in their District or in a neighboring District. They rise early, feed the animals and milk the cows, prepare lunch and leave for church about 7:30 a.m. They typically spend the day visiting with either church members or their nearby family members. They return home late afternoon to tend to the animals. On Sunday and several times during the week, they may visit in the evening with neighbors or family members.

The four principles for an improved definition of diversity are: diversity is expansive but not without boundaries, diversity is fluid, diversity is based on both differences and similarities, and diversity is rooted in nonessentialist thought. The first principle tells us that if we include all social structures that are in essence, different, then everyone will be considered diverse and that diversity will lose its clarity. Also, to make the world of diversity too narrow, and limit it to one's obvious demographic characteristics, then the conceptions of core identity are ignored. For the Amish, there isn't really a box that most people can check. They would most likely be considered Caucasian on paper, but their social and religious life is far different than typical America. To throw them into a group of Caucasians would be an injustice to them since they're a very diverse group.

The second principle, that diversity is fluid, just means that the world of diversity is ever-changing. Some are finding that they belong to more than one racial group and some can identify with several different social groups at a time. Also, a person's status can change instantly as well. Religion, sexual orientation, marital status, and even gender are a few of the things that a person can change. With the Amish, they are not allowed to marry outside of the religion, and very few people decide to join the faith, therefore creating a small gene pool. Because of this small gene pool, there are a lot more people with dwarfism, down syndrome, and other congenital diseases. This can cause them to fall into another diverse group; the disabled.

The third principle tells people that diversity is based on both differences and similarities. People tend to define themselves in terms of differences rather than find the common similarities between each other. To identify only with the differences can create deeper divisions within groups when they are not. While some hold prejudices toward the Amish and don't understand a community that chooses to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, it also very hard for the Amish to understand a world that relies on convenience and appears to be very vain. In this case, there are similarities that both would have to recognize with each other.

The last principle tends to deal with pre-conceived



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