One of the primary American myths is that the country is a "melting pot" in which diverse cultures can assimilate into a single society. However, as the number and size of minority groups has grown, the "melting pot" theory of cultural assimilation has come under attack, since it is premised on giving up one's cultural identity in order to conform to the entrenched norms of the dominant majority. Consequently, the "melting pot" ideal now has largely been replaced with the concept of "multiculturalism" (Brewster, 1995).
Multiculturalism, or cultural diversity, is based on the notion that cultural identities should not be discarded or ignored, but should be maintained, nurtured and valued. As one commentator has noted, multiculturalism is "dedicated to nurturing the self-esteem of the historically excluded and creating an egalitarian culture apart [from the majority] . . . . [It] discard[s] universalism and assimilation to focus on the consequences of culture" (Kauffman, 1993, 12)
Multiculturalism is a concept used by American business managers as an attempt to deal with the issues presented by the increased presence of women and minorities in the workplace. The literature connected with this concept uses various expressions to describe this act, including "managing diversity," "diversity awareness," or "valuing differences." These phrases are designed to give understanding to a wide range of philosophical constructs that are implemented to help companies eliminate the traditional obstacles that have stood in the way of corporate advancement by these groups.
The concept of managing diversity has moved from being a philosophical stance to a business necessity. A study conducted by the Hudson Institute for the U.S. Department of Labor found that eighty-five (85%) percent of the new entrants into workforce 2000 will be women, minorities, and immigrants. "If American businesses want to remain successful and competitive in the f...