Global Diversity Management
Abstract and Keywords
Diversity management refers to organizational policies and practices aimed at recruiting, retaining, and managing employees of diverse backgrounds and identities, while creating a culture in which everybody is equally enabled to perform and achieve organizational and personal objectives. In a globalized world, there is a need for contextual and transnational approaches to utilize the benefits that global diversity may bring as well as the challenges that organizations may face in managing a diverse workforce. In particular, it is important to take into account how diversity is theorized and managed in non-Western contexts, for example in BRICS countries (i.e., Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and Muslim-majority countries. The literature confirms the need for organizational efforts to be focused on engaging with and managing a heterogeneous workplace in ways that not only yield sustainable competitive advantage but also are contextually and socially responsible. Organizations today are expected to take positive action, beyond legal compliance, to ensure equal access, employment and promotion opportunities, and also to ensure that diversity programs make use of employee differences, and contribute to local as well as global communities.
Diversity has been interpreted in many ways in academic scholarship. Broadly speaking, it refers to various dimensions of identity such as gender, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality, and disability that may be used to distinguish individuals or groups from each other. Diversity management may be defined as a set of organizational policies and practices aimed at recruiting, retaining, and managing employees of diverse backgrounds and identities and creating a culture in which everybody is equally enabled to perform and achieve organizational objectives and personal development.
According to Kandola and Fullerton (1998, p. 7), “The basic concept of managing diversity accepts that the workforce consists of a diverse population of people consisting of visible and non-visible differences including factors such as sex, age, background, race, disability, personality and work style, and is founded on the premise that harnessing these differences will create a productive environment in which everyone feels valued, where all talents are fully utilized and in which organizational goals are met.”
Global diversity management refers to “planning, coordination and implementation, a set of management strategies, policies, initiatives, training and development activities, that seek to accommodate diverse sets of social and individual backgrounds, interests, beliefs, values, and the way they work in organizations with international, multinational, global and transnational workforces and operations” (Özbilgin, Tatli, & Jonsen, 2015, p. 10). In contrast to an ethnocentric approach to diversity, global diversity management considers variances in cultural, legislative, economic, industrial, and other macro-level factors and accordingly formulates its approach to understanding and treating diversity.
This article discusses diversity and its management in a global context. It highlights the divergent and transnational nature of diversity as well as opportunities to develop better understanding and management of a diverse workforce across the globe.
Diversity in a Global Context
This section begins with an overview of diversity in the global context. It then discusses global diversity and transnational diversity and explains how the two notions are distinct.
Due to increasing globalization and its impact on demographics of societies, markets, and workers, it has become a necessity for organizations, particularly multinational corporations (MNCs), to understand and manage the heterogeneity of the workforce (Shen, Chanda, D’Netto, & Monga, 2009). In this backdrop, diversity management has become a framework to leverage the diversity of a global workforce while seeking to maintain consistency throughout the organization (Rosenzweig, 1998). Diversity in a global context is essential to both organizations and individuals because of its potential impact on knowledge transfer and innovation, motivation and productivity, and overall organizational performance.
A major challenge in the contemporary workplace is to create an inclusive culture that satisfies diverse demands and expectations of workers as well as enables their fullest contribution to achieve organizational goals (Knotter et al., 2011; Schmidt, 2014). The main reason this topic is of great interest to global companies is because they have to adapt to the new reality of an increasingly diverse labor market, while maintaining an ethical and socially responsible conduct; they also must create a competitive advantage by leveraging diversity and enhancing corporate image. It is, however, a fact that the mainstream literature on diversity at times imposes prescriptive and normative understandings of what diversity is and how it should be practiced (Ahonen et al., 2013), with relatively less attention paid to cross-cultural values and norms (Paludi, 2012).
Global diversity is about understanding the differences that exist within and between different countries as well as understanding one’s own environment (Gundling & Zanchettin, 2007). In recent years, globalization has made diversity an important issue in many MNCs. In particular, diversity is becoming a norm for influencing organizational outcomes, such as increased global knowledge, high performance, innovation, and employee engagement (Lauring, 2013).
The literature points toward two main issues that organizations face in terms of managing diversity globally. The first issue relates to a thorough knowledge about how each country differs socially, legally, and politically (Mor Barak, 2014). The second issue that organizations face is being able to understand cultural diversity of employees and the top management team (Scott & Byrd, 2012).
Scott and Byrd (2012) suggested that organizations that develop cultural competence and facilitate smooth coordination and transition across employees, and business units are likely to be more successful than those that neglect these issues. Gundling and Zanchettin (2007) noted that dealing with these issues in a global context requires an integrated effort and coordination from the senior management teams.
Many firms prefer diverse teams because they often perform better than homogenous teams (Sippola & Smale, 2007). Particularly for complex tasks, heterogeneous teams are thought to outperform homogeneous ones (Benet-Martinez & Hong, 2014). For instance, Motorola managed to beat its competition by producing the world’s most efficient, high-quality cellular phones, which were produced by heterogeneous teams (Aswathappa, 2007). Moreover, diversity enhances organizational flexibility as it encourages the firm to challenging old assumptions and becoming more adaptable to new ideas (Nelson & Quick, 2013).
Even though diverse teams bring a wide range of organizational benefits, these teams also face number of issues (Sutton, 2014).
Firstly, it is necessary to attract global team leaders with the crucial skills needed to manage cultural diversity: such as cultural agility, global mind-set, and cultural intelligence (Collings, Wood, & Caligiuri, 2015). This issue has significant implications in terms of finding suitable candidates and initiating appropriate training programs (Collings et al., 2015).
Secondly, cultural diversity makes functioning of work teams (face-to-face and virtual) more challenging because team members need to learn the value of divergent perspectives while acting in similar ways to enhance group effectiveness (Bhagat, Triandis, & McDevitt, 2012).
In terms of embracing diversity, some organizations use the “melting-pot” approach, which is based on the assumption that individuals from different ethnicities and nationalities would automatically want to assimilate (Robbins, Judge, Odeendaal, & Roodt, 2009). However, early-21st-century studies suggest that using the melting pot approach is not really effective (Kumra & Manfredi, 2012; Paludi, 2012). Nishii and Özbilgin (2007) argued that poorly designed training programs are counterproductive to the promotion of diversity in MNCs. Nishii and Özbilgin further argue that problems in transferring diversity management practices are mainly due to lack of legitimacy and relevance within policies that are created in a country and may not be useful in another country (Moran, Harris, & Moran, 2011). The following sub-section illustrates the importance of transnational approach to diversity management.
The transnational approach to diversity illustrates the complexity of ethnic identities from a comparative perspective (Ozkazanc-Pan & Calas, 2015; Williams, Soydan, & Johnson, 1998). While diversity stresses the content of ethnic culture, transnational diversity focuses on the interaction and complexities among different ethnic/racial groups (Williams et al., 1998). This difference has important consequences in terms of social policy and social work action (Ozkazanc-Pan & Calas, 2015). Both of these interventions seek to bring about measures of harmony, and a prerequisite is taking ethnic minority groups into account.
The key purpose of a transnational firm is to establish a corporate presence in other countries to gain further growth (Smith, 2006). While the goal is to increase growth, other common goals that transnational firms have are to capture new technologies, increase market share, and eventually gain a competitive advantage (Adekola & Sergi, 2007).
Transnational companies are MNCs that delegate their decision-making powers to foreign offices to enable customization of their production and operations and also to enhance their appeal to a diverse audience. In this respect, transnational companies are borderless and are not national- or ethno-centric in their orientation.
A transnational approach to diversity considers the difference between global and transnational conceptions of diversity management and favors the latter. The approach is contextual in nature and is generally attentive to intersections among nationhood, race, gender, and economic inequalities on a global scale. A transnational orientation indicates many centers across the globe (e.g., across the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia). Transnational studies inquire into the social, political, and economic conditions, their connections to colonialism and nationalism, and the role of gender, race, or class in the organization of resistance to hegemonies and inequalities. Transnational diversity focuses on the issues of how diversity affects the mobility and economic behaviors of ethnic/racial groups and immigrants (Soong, 2016). For example, it examines how migrants settle in new countries, especially those that immigrate from developed countries to developing countries (Baubock & Faist, 2010). In addition, transnational diversity resists universalistic notions of diversity and its management while simultaneously working to lay the groundwork for more productive and equitable social relations across national and cultural contexts. It pays attention to the discursive and cultural processes that tend to subordinate some diversity groups while privileging or normalizing others—often locking some groups in fixed or essentialized subject positions and adversely valued identities—while creating mobile, dynamic, fluid, and valued identities for the powerful (Lin, 2013; Taylor, 2012).
In a 21st-century globalized world, transnational firms are increasing worldwide, and diversity has become an important component for these firms (Sparrow, 2009). Therefore, leaders and managers operating in transnational and multinational firms are likely to face far more challenges than those that operate nationally (Krikken, 2014). Such challenges are evident, for instance, when HR designs and implements programs for culturally diverse groups (Krikken, 2014). For example, an organization may be collaborating with firms that operate in China and Brazil. In this instance, the top management would need to have a thorough understanding of how these firms and their cultural contexts differ and how such differences could be harnessed to achieve common goals (Boxall, Purcell, & Wright, 2007).
Deresky and Christopher (2012) explained that international business leaders are trying to be more responsible in terms of encouraging diversity, offering flexible working hours, as well as being environmentally sustainable. Indeed, managers that work in a transnational firm are likely to face far more conflicting challenges than those that operate nationally (Boxall et al., 2007). Moreover, top managers need to have the capabilities of creating and leveraging employee knowledge throughout the global network process (Jenkins, 2013). Jenkins explains that leveraging knowledge allows a transnational firm to gain access to information and new skills, while developing competitive products or services. Also it allows the firm to deal with any uncertainties that may occur along the way (Krikken, 2014).
Implications for Organizations
This section provides examples of how diversity in a global context has implications for MNCs and other organizations.
Broad Scope and Contested Space
For MNCs, the interest in global diversity is rapidly growing (MacGillivray & Golden, 2007; Patrick & Kumar, 2012). Managers and research scholars have begun to introduce diversity into global management by focusing on gender, ethnicity, race, culture, age, and other factors, as a source of strategic competitive advantage (De Anca & Vazquez, 2007).
In the early 21st century, diversity in a global context has witnessed a shift from the traditional equal opportunities approach toward the modern notion of appreciating and recognizing everybody as different (CIPD, 2014). Diversity initiatives today entail interventions that cut across gender, race and ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability and other social characteristics across continents and countries, going beyond domestic workplace settings.
Although efforts are made to encourage diversity, recent findings have shown that discrimination still exists (e.g., pay gaps as well as vertical and horizontal segregation) (Syed & Özbilgin, 2015). Syed and Özbilgin (2010) argued that in the absence of an integrated approach at multiple levels (macro-national, meso-organizational, and micro-individual), organizations could potentially find it difficult to fully engage with and effectively manage diversity. In principle, managing diversity involves creating an environment where all employees are able to contribute to organizational goals as well as achieve their own personal growth (Knotter et al., 2011). Ahonen et al. (2013) suggested that for organizations to achieve equality and anti-discrimination, they need to adopt transparent and governable approaches to diversity.
In the 21st century there is a rapid growth of organizations operating globally; however, there are still difficulties in terms of understanding and approaches to diversity in the workplace (Farndale et al., 2015; Özbilgin et al., 2015). There is a concern that managers and leaders responsible for global diversity management have little or no specific training in this area (Özbilgin et al., 2015). As a result, there may not be sufficient interest in learning and accommodating different cultural views and traditions of diversity. Mor Barak (2014) suggested that effective diversity management may benefit from the Chinese tradition of dividing human beings into four classes: (a) like scholars, managers may adopt an ethical and learning-oriented approach to diversity, always aiming to do the right thing; (b) like farmers, they may respect their employees’ unique characteristics; and (c) like artisans, they may introduce creative solutions as they strive for excellence. These qualities, combined with the last principle, (d) ambition to utilize diversity to promote business goals and profitability, may lay the groundwork for sound management (Mor Barak, 2014). The next section offers an overview of legislative response to global diversity.
In defining diversity, it is important to understand the distinctions between “equal employment opportunity” (EEO), “affirmative action” (AA), and “diversity management” (Sutton, 2001). Confusion about defining the terms may cause some serious challenges in designing and implementing diversity initiatives (Skrentny, 2001).
EEO focuses on providing individuals with equitable treatment in organizations, particularly when recruiting, hiring, training, and promoting individuals (Hubbard, 2004). The purpose of EEO is to ensure that workplaces are free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment, and no one is treated unfairly (Paludi, 2013).
AA is also known as positive discrimination. The term was originally adopted by the United States (Gotsis & Kortezi, 2015). AA is concerned with creating inclusivity in the workplace, and the objectives are more specific in comparison to EEO policies (Winston, 2014). The purpose of AA is to deal with the systematic discrimination deeply embedded in traditional employment policies and to help eliminate discrimination in the workplace (Derlien & Peters, 2008). Unlike EEO, AA is particularly focused on quotas or reservations for individuals/groups that are from historically disadvantaged ethnic, faith or gender groups (Derlien & Peters, 2008). Bohlander and Snell (2010) noted that AA policies go beyond the EEO as it requires organizations to comply with the law seriously and correct any past discriminatory practices that may have occurred. AA is concerned with increasing numbers of those groups that are seen as a disproportionate minority in employment (Winston, 2014).
In the last two decades, the approaches toward equal opportunities have gradually evolved from affirmative action to the current diversity management approach (Vertovec, 2015). Diversity management is based on the premise that harnessing workplace differences will create a productive environment in which everyone is valued, and their talents are fully utilized to achieve the organization’s objectives (Syed & Kramar, 2009). Cox and Beale (1997) and Vertovec (2015) note that top management teams that play a leading role in the organization are expected to manage diversity effectively and efficiently. Unlike equal employment opportunities and affirmative action, diversity management is not legally mandated (Wrench, 2007). Recent studies suggest that managing diversity can be seen as developing a path toward creating opportunities such as introducing innovation, opening new multicultural markets and creating effective teams (Mishra, Sarkar, & Singh, 2012). Organizations that actively encourage diversity in the workplace often do it on a voluntary basis rather than as a legal requirement (Vertovec, 2015). Some scholars (e.g., Cox & Beale, 1997; Paludi, 2012; Thomas, 2010) argue that diversity management has emerged as a strategic approach to manage differences between individuals while encouraging positive workplace relations, and to improve organizational performance in the face of demographic shifts in society (Ahonen et al., 2013).
Since 2010, U.K. government has introduced positive action, which means that employers can lawfully encourage and train those that are under-represented in employment (Kearney, 2000). Organizations that actively engage with positive action tend to address the traditional barriers faced by minority applicants such as prejudice or stereotypes (Braiden, 2011). For instance, Muslim women may not have the cultural permission to travel alone unless they have a male chaperone (or Mehram, preferably their husband), while in many senior positions, one has to travel (Nelson, 2011). Therefore, if the organization is aware of the issue it can look at alternative ways to resolve the problem (Jeurissen, 2007). Another benefit of having a positive action in place is to redress systematic, historical, or institutional discrimination and even use it to promote diversity in private and public organizations (Jeurissen, 2007). However, Kearney (2000) argued that positive action could potentially cause discrimination in the workplace as it excludes the majority or mainstream groups and only focuses on those that are seen as a minority.
Across Europe, quotas have been introduced to represent more women on corporate boards, which has generated a vast amount of interest in most countries (Reding, 2014). These quotas have been designed to rectify the extreme gender imbalance that countries and organizations continue to face, despite the fact that there is a high increase of female advancements in education (Sweigart, 2012). Statistics show that women represent just 20.2% of the cooperate boards for the largest publicly listed companies in the EU (Sweigart, 2012). The lack of progress of women in senior and leadership is not a European problem alone. In the United Kingdom, women make 23.5% of the FTSE 100 boards, and only 18% are represented at the FTSE 250 boards (Davies, 2015).
Norway is one of the first countries to mandate quotas, and the government’s aim is that women should account for 40% of its corporate boards. Norway currently tops the ranks of 20 countries across the regions, with 35.5% female are represented on the boards of its OMX listed companies (Davidson, 2015). While Norway has been successful having a high percentage of women on corporate boards, other countries began to follow the trend such as Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. Even in Britain the government started to take a voluntary approach to introduce quotas, urging that 25% of females should represent the boardrooms by 2015. But in reality, women’s progression towards senior and leadership positions is slow (Treanor, 2013).
Similarly, Indian women have one of the lowest levels of participation in employment as well as access to educational opportunities (Pande & Moore, 2015). Although the government and other actors in India often focus on what special measures can be put in place to enhance women’s access to education and employment, these measures are often ignored by organizations (Hoodfar & Tajali, 2011). Indian Company Law in 2013 required all listed companies to have at least one female director (Jonge, 2015). Despite the modest nature of this requirement, the law has sent many companies into a spin searching for acceptable female talent (Hoodfar & Tajali, 2011). Strong social and economic forces still operate as barriers to talented women, impeding their directorship (Jonge, 2015). Pande and Moore (2015) noted that the reason women do not seek or are unable to gain employment and education is due to the persistence of India’s gender norms, which seek to ensure “purity” of women by protecting them from men other than their (male) family members. In other words, women are not expected to step out of the house unless they have a male (family member) chaperone. Hoodfar and Tajali (2011) argued that it may take more than formal quotas before gender equality even reaches boardrooms. The following sub-section provides examples of approaches organizations in different countries adopt to manage diversity.
Organizations that seek to be global or operate in a multicultural context may need to be fully aware of the macro-level aspects of diversity, including legal, demographic, historical, sociopolitical and economic aspects. Training and cross-cultural understanding may be needed for managers and employees to develop a deep understanding of diverse national and cultural contexts and also to inculcate the ability to work in global teams (Griswold, 2013).
In today’s global era, there are numerous examples of how MNCs and other organizations are seeking to manage diversity in their operations and expansions. An example of a globally diverse company is the Virgin Group headquarters in the United Kingdom. The company provides services in several sectors and has offices in countries as diverse as Australia, Japan, the United States, Singapore, and South Africa. It employs more than 50,000 people in 34 countries around the world (Virgin Group, n.d.). The Virgin Group is a part of the B-Team, a network of global business leaders to advance the well-being of people and the planet, for a concerted, positive action to ensure that business becomes a driving force for social, environmental, and economic benefit (The B Team, 2015).
Another example of an MNC embracing diversity is IBM. To provide equal opportunity and positive action for diverse applicants and employees, IBM carries out programs for women, minorities, sexual minorities, people with disabilities and protected veterans. This includes outreach as well as human resource programs that ensure equality in compensation and opportunity for growth and development (IBM, n.d.). In 2014, the company was named as most LGBT-inclusive (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender) employer in the world. The announcement was the result of a global survey in which major international employers were scored for their LGBT workplace inclusion policies and practices around the world (Workplace Pride, 2014).
Tesco, the United Kingdom’s leading retailer, has developed a diversity program that is central to its performance and growth. The company hires the most employees in the country, with more than a staggering 300,000 employees in almost 3,000 stores according to their website (Tesco, n.d.). Tesco organizes diverse strategies with stores in 12 countries offering employees opportunities. Their talent-planning framework is used to develop talent for the future. Another key operation is their flexible work-shift patterns within several 24-hour stores to ensure work-life balance. Tesco has a Diversity Council that sets the diversity strategy for the company (Bailey & Bailey, 2013). A host of diversity partners are associated with company such a Stonewall, Employers Forum on Disability, and Opportunity Now focusing on equal rights and gender equality. Quite a few people who work for Tesco in the United Kingdom are of Asian descent. In 2009 the Asian Network was formed to attract and also create an inclusive environment for Asian heritage employees. Each year, the network holds a series of regional events, attracting several hundred attendees. These events provide an opportunity for networking, mentoring, and information-sharing and encourage Asian colleagues from across the United Kingdom to build their future with Tesco. In 2012 Tesco launched an ABC (African, Black British, and Caribbean) network in the United Kingdom (Tesco, n.d.).
In some instances, organizations are seeing the need to hire a workforce that reflects the diversity and choices of their key stakeholders, such as customers, communities, and investors (Richard, Kirby, & Chadwick, 2013). Organizations that actively engage with cultural and other forms of diversity continue to explore new approaches to make full use of diversity in the workplace (Carbery & Cross, 2013). In some cases, companies make strategic business-related decisions, such as employing and promoting skilled individuals from disadvantaged groups. For example, Volvo cars noticed there was an under-representation of women in automobile development. The company decided to implement a diversity management program, focused on active recruitment and development of female employees and managers (Carbery & Cross, 2013).
Some MNCs provide training globally as well as nationally through online means such as webcasts, video links, and other electronic tools (Caney & Jones, 2014). Wal-Mart uses a number of training interventions such as “MicroMessaging: The Power of Small,” to equip managers to effectively deal with workforce diversity (Ribiere & Worasinchai, 2013, p. 59).
However, it is important to note the contextual nature of diversity across countries and cultures.
Diversity Management Across the World
This section explains contextual variances of diversity and provides examples from different regions and countries. The concept of diversity management originated in the United States and was later adopted by other industrialized countries in the West such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom (Liff, 1997). Normally associated with the sociocultural and economic contexts of the West, the notion may be seen as somewhat incompatible in other geographical locations, such as Africa, Asia, and South America. This is due to differences in demography, national history, culture, laws, and other factors (Syed, 2008).
In the past two decades, the European Union (EU) has indicated a robust attention to diversity through its equality and positive action policies. Across Europe, there is a trend to strengthen legislation against discrimination as indicated by directives on equal treatment of people irrespective of their race and ethnic backgrounds. The United Kingdom has a substantial amount of experience of policies and laws seeking to integrate diverse groups of immigrants into the local community. Between 1993 and 2012 the foreign-born population in the United Kingdom more than doubled from 3.8 million to around 7.7 million. During the same period, the number of foreign citizens in the United Kingdom increased from nearly 2 million to 4.9 million (Observatory, 2014). Two key aspects for successful integration are access to employment (jobs) and adequate services (e.g., transport, housing) without discrimination.
The United Kingdom is a diverse society with ethnic minorities (4.6 million) making 8% of the external labor (Observatory, 2014). According to an estimate, 6% of the adult population in the United Kingdom is lesbian, gay, or bisexual (Campbell, 2005). There is also a growing participation of females within the working population, which is estimated to be around 51%.
Due to consistently low birth rates and increased longevity, many developed countries may need even larger waves of immigrants to sustain their current ratio of workers to retirees. At the same time, many developing countries are experiencing unprecedented growth in the numbers of young people (Coale & Hoover, 2015).
International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) has been established by the United Nations with an aim to facilitate policies and strategies that protect and promote diversity in organizations and institutions (IFCD, 2017). Although such efforts are made, developing countries are still suffering from poorly developed cultural policies in comparison to Western countries, due to lack of political will and financial resources (Hanania, 2014).
Organizational policies and culture are naturally influenced by national culture and political ideology, characterized by policies and laws of citizenship, integration, and national identity (Cheong et al., 2007). In addition, social difference codes such as gender and ethnicity and widely shared beliefs and cultural norms dictate the social distinctions between individuals. This results in how inequality is organized in a given society, which may also reflect in the workplace (Ridgeway, 2006).
Next, the article explains how diversity is managed in BRICS and Muslim majority countries.
Diversity in BRICS
The BRICS countries represent the fast-growing emerging market of countries that are expected to drive future economy globally (Kaufman, 2014). Aalto and Scott-Kennel (2012) noted that these countries comprise 40% of the world’s population, providing goods and services to approximately 2.8 billion consumers’ worldwide.
However, there are significant differences between the five regions in terms of how they manage diversity. For instance, Chinese organizations do not see diversity as an issue but more as a matter of avoiding conflicts with other cultures and countries (Sparrow, Scullion, & Tarique, 2014). In contrast, Indian organizations tend to be more familiar with the notion and practices of diversity but seem to neglect them (Sparrow et al., 2014).
In the context of Russia, 21st-century studies suggest that there is a growing pressure on the government from bodies such as the civil society, ILO, and the United Nations, in terms of strengthening their legislations and providing more protection to immigrants and other disadvantaged groups. However, the Russian government has stated that no such legislation is necessary because these groups are already covered by national legislation (Horwitz & Budhwar, 2015). Recent studies state that Russian firms have a lack of diversity, compared to the other four countries in BRICS (Trost, 2013).
Brazil has been keen on introducing innovative approaches through affirmative action (e.g., by offering social networks, job training programs, and additional support from the management teams) (Cassiolato & Lundvall, 2009). Brazil uses affirmative action through its quota system in employment (Jabbour et al., 2011). Similarly, the South African government has implemented affirmative action for diverse racial groups (Mor Barak, 2014). It is important to note that many of these policies have been adopted from the United States (Jabbour et al., 2011; Langston, 1997).
In China, many industrialized cities currently face a unique challenge due to diversity of local and migrant workers (Sheldon et al., 2011). Previous reports have shown that discrimination is an issue in China’s large corporations, which has led to serious consequences (Foong & Lim, 2010). For example, high suicide rates among young migrant workers were reported in a large manufacturing plant in Shenzhen (China) (Foong & Lim, 2010). Eventually the local government had no option but to force companies to make drastic changes, which included offering competitive pay, relocations of the plants, and so on (Foong & Lim, 2010).
Zahidi (2014) notes that there is a high proportion of women with senior roles in the BRICS nations. These women comprise 30% of senior management positions, which is higher than the global average of 24% (Saab, 2014). Surprisingly these countries have not enacted compulsory quotas or even legislation addressing gender imbalances (Doff, Hankir, & Narayan, 2014). Russia has the highest proportion of women at senior management levels globally (43%), without any formal gender equality programs put in place (Saab, 2014). Further, between 2012 and 2013, China doubled the number of senior management roles held by women from 25% to 51% (Saab, 2014; Zahidi, 2014). Unlike the United States and other countries, Russia, Brazil, China, and South Africa have more women than men in professional and technical positions such as teachers, doctors, and financial accountants (Zahidi, 2014). The following subsection explains the notion of gender equity in an Islamic context.
Islamic Emphasis on Gender Equity
In many Muslim majority countries and communities, Islamic religion continues to influence legislation, culture, and norms. It is therefore important to contextualize diversity in countries with a majority or significant Muslim population.
Unwilling to uncritically accept the Western conception of gender equality, Islamic scholars usually focus on the notion of gender equity instead (Cornell, 2007). Gender equity means justice in which men and women are treated fairly, taking into account that both may have different needs (Atthill & Jha, 2009). Some Muslim scholars insist on the concept of qawama (male guardianship), which as per their interpretation means that men and women are not equal but have different roles and responsibilities (Nieuwkerk, 2006).
According to Islamic teachings, the ideal role of a male is to protect and take care of the family financially, whereas the ideal role of a female is to nurture and look after family members (Lovat & Crotty, 2015). Another Islamic principle is nafaqa, which is closely related to qawama (Lovat & Crotty, 2015). Nafaqa, in theory, specifies that once a marriage has been consummated, the husband becomes responsible for providing for his wife and children with necessities of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter (Schroeter, 2013), while the wife takes the responsibility of caring duties at home and as well as bringing up the family (Schroeter, 2013). Sieder and McNeish (2013) argued that there are Islamic restrictions on both genders in terms of their roles and duties. For instance, males who fail to provide nafaqa could potentially face prison sentence as per Islamic sharia law.
Islamic teachings encourage fair treatment among both genders and emphasize respect for women in particular (O’Sullivan, Smith, & Esposito, 2012). In the Quran and the teachings of prophet Muhammad, there are passages that explain how gender roles are egalitarian in nature (Hughes, 2013). The Quran encourages women to participate in education and economic activities, in both religious and social domains (Hamdan, 2009). Both genders are equally encouraged to acquire in their chosen career? For example, known as one of the greatest women in the history of Islam, prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadija was a successful entrepreneur while fulfilling her duties as a wife and a mother (Taqra, 2015). Islamic traditions also show that the prophet Mohammed worked alongside his wife while carrying out the domestic chores (Nieuwkerk, 2006). In summary, policy makers and employers operating in Muslim majority countries may consider the Islamic emphasis on gender equity in designing and implementing gender and diversity policies in the workplace.
The article situated diversity in a global context and also outlined its implications for organizational approaches and strategies. It highlighted the need for contextual and transnational approaches to global diversity and also discussed the benefits that diversity strategies may bring to MNCs as well as the challenges they may face in dealing with a diverse workforce.
In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, businesses are forced to hire and manage employees and managers of diverse backgrounds to make full use of human and social capital, in order to remain competitive and productive. Accordingly, businesses are expected to operate in diverse teams and environments, while strategically minimizing frictions and capturing the value of different perspectives and skills (Thomas, 2010). To that end, diversity efforts will need to be focused on managing and engaging a heterogeneous workforce in ways that yield sustainable competitive advantage. Organizations will need to take positive action beyond legal compliance to ensure equal access, employment, and promotion opportunities and also to ensure that diversity programs are proactive and valuable, make use of individual and cultural differences, and contribute to local as well as global communities.
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