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Theories and Models of Multiculturalism

Rebecca Ralph
CUR/518
Instructor: Deb Hatfield
March 14, 2015

Introduction
Multiculturalism is the norm in todays business/educational world. This norm has
created a notion of diversity among the workplace and classroom. With multiculturalism being a
norm the sense of exclusion and inclusion comes with it. Inclusion and exclusion also relates to
social groups that come with multiculturalism. In recent studies, there are a number of theories
that have supported exclusion and inclusion among multicultural groups. For this paper, I will be
discussing three theories. These three theories are: equity theory, intergroup contact theory, and
social identity theory. Along with these theories I will provide examples on how each theory
relate to multicultural groups.
Exclusion/Inclusion
Throughout human history, individuals have always tried to find ways to be included in a
group. This need for inclusion has in the past led to exclusion from groups. This is called
exclusion. Inclusion/exclusion in the workplace and at times in the educational setting is defined
as the individuals sense of being a part of the organizational system in both the formal
processes and the informal processes (Mor Barak 155). The formal processes are for those
individuals who have access to important information within his/her company and able to make
informative decisions within the workplace. The informal processes are processes for
individuals who are part of the water cooler and break room meetings within the workplace.
This thought process about exclusion and inclusion has affected individuals in diverse
workplaces. Many individuals feel that they are not included in important decisions due to race,
gender, sexual orientation, to only name a few. The concepts exclusion and inclusion have
prompted theorist to test rather or not multiculturalism is a factor in social settings.

Equity Theory
Equity theory is the first theory to be discussed as it relates to exclusion and inclusion of
multiculturalism in the workplace. The theory of equity is defined as an emphasis on people
striving for justice and views perceptions of injustice as the cause for personal distress and
intergroup conflict (163). This theory explains that as individuals feel more and more excluded
from the mainstream in the workplace, they begin to feel a need to compete with others to get
higher in the workplace. For example, if an African American woman is fully qualified for a
management position, but the position was given to a white female who may not have the
necessary skills to fulfil the position; the African American woman would feel threaten over the
fact she did not receive the position due to her race. She would then want to compete and do
anything in her power to get the position she feels she deserves. As a result, this theory argues
that conflict will arise amongst social groups and therefore can affect the diversity of the
workplace. Equity theory theorizes that as multicultural groups are feeling more and more
excluded from the workplace this will prompt these groups to get more hostile as they seek for
justice.
Intergroup Contact Theory
The second important theory that explains multiculturalism in the workplace and
educational setting is intergroup contact theory. Intergroup contact theory sees the root cause
for conflict in look of contact between groups, or contact under unfavorable conditions, and
holds that contact optimal conditions could reduce prejudice and intergroup conflict (163). This
theory is similar to the equity theory in that conflict among intergroup contact can arise.
However, this theory argues that there is a way to avoid this conflict. In the above example of
the African American woman and the white woman, according to this theory that if the business

that the two women worked for saw that the root cause to the injustice was due to race, the
company could work towards eliminating race as the factor behind the situation. The theory
explains that this could result in eliminating prejudice because after all the women are of the
same gender. Not only would it eliminate prejudice, but it can avoid any conflict among the two
racial groups. If the African American woman had been informed that the white woman may
have a little bit more experience in a management setting then it could help solve the prejudice
concept. This theory is similar to the equity theory, but is different at the same time.
Social Identity Theory
This theory is the third theory to be discussed in this paper. This theory is actually the
most widely used in the world in explaining multiculturalism. Social identity theory provides
the connection between social structures and individual identity through the meanings people
attach to their membership in identity groups such as those formed by race, ethnicity or gender
(163). For example, many people feel included in groups that are similar to their own. I can
relate to this theory in my own personal life. I feel more included in my church because we are
like minded. This is true in the workplace. In the example used above about the African
American woman and the white woman, if the two women worked together and came to a
common ground that they are women who are working towards becoming a manager then they
belong to a social group that is like minded. The two women can relate to one another in their
attempts of becoming a female manager. This is similar to the equity and intergroup contact
theory. It is similar to the equity theory in that if either woman did not get the position then the
women would work together to find of some justice in the workplace. It is also similar to the
intergroup contact theory in that the women can find a way to avoid prejudice by working

together. The social identity theory theorizes that individuals feel more included in groups if the
groups are of a similar mind as them.
My Opinion
I believe that the three discussed theories are good at explaining the inclusion and
exclusion of multicultural groups. I find myself relating to all three mentioned theories. For
example, when I first moved out to East Tennessee from New Mexico, I found myself having a
hard time being included in with the locals. It is a known fact that many East Tennesseans only
include those who are just like them; mainly their family members and/or really close friends. If
you are an outsider, like I was, you will find yourself having a hard time being included in a
group. However, as you live here long enough you will find that you will slowly find yourself
being included. It is true that individuals do want to feel included in groups. I know I sure did
when I moved to East Tennessee.
Conclusion
Throughout human history, individuals always wanted to be a part of the big picture.
Individuals find ways to be a part of a social group or organization that will give them a sense of
belonging. In this paper, I provided three theories that helped explained this sense of inclusion
among multicultural groups. These theories are: equity, intergroup contact, and social identity
theories. These theories help theorize this need for inclusion among individuals in todays
diverse world. All three theories are similar in that they explain how and why individuals find
ways to avoid prejudices. They are also different in that they view social groups from a different
angle. As diversity continues to intensify more and more in todays world, further research and
theories will come about to help explain why individuals behave and think the way they do.

Reference
Mor Barak, Michlle E., Vive la Diffrence? Theoretical Perspective on Diversity and
Exclusion in the Workplace, Managing Diversity Toward a Globally Inclusive
Workplace, 3rd Edition, Sage Publications, 2014.