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Get Inspired by Cultural Diversity Day!

In December 2002, the UN declared 21 May World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

As stated by the UN, culture is commonly defined as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society."

In other words, cultural diversity obviously shows in gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, age, and other aspects, while the effects of culture are reflected in human behavior.

Cultural Diversity in Organizations

But what does cultural diversity stand for? Does it mean that we have different opportunities with regards to our professional career and that we are possibly favored over others because of different cultural backgrounds? What does cultural diversity imply for organizations and does it need management?

Management of Cultural Diversity is becoming more and more popular in workplaces as well as in lectures at universities or at conferences dedicated to this topic. With increasing globalization, diversity is increasing and so are the challenges but also the opportunities.

It is essential to look at diversity management, not only with regards to cultural differences themselves, but also with regards to its effect on work outcomes.

According to Taylor Cox, a leading expert on cultural diversity in organizations, managing diversity is one of the most important tasks we are facing today within organizations and it is “at the core of leadership”. Management of diversity is maximizing possible advantages while it is minimizing possible disadvantages.

Three Reasons for Managing Diversity

There are three main reasons for managing diversity, and ultimately benefitting from it:

  • Moral and social responsibility: A balanced representation of different cultural groups, be it men and women, white people and people of color, etc., throughout organizations is still wishful thinking.
  • Economic performance: Overall economic performance of an organization is closely linked to successful management of diversity. How effective an organization is also depends on team spirit and internal cooperation. Managing diversity is important to establish a viable unity.
  • Legal requirements: Just recently Germany for example passed a law concerning a women’s quota in supervisory boards. Furthermore, laws against discrimination and for the equal treatment of minorities do exist in various countries. However, there is still a long way to go until those laws become anchored in our minds as well.

How Can Diversity Be Managed?

Managing diversity within organizations is a very complex topic and thus would require a lot more evaluation and explanation than we can handle within this article.  Put briefly, here are a few approaches which can facilitate intercultural cooperation within organizations:

  • Exercise cross-cultural team building in order to make cooperation easier
  • Set up a cultural calendar in order to respect everyone’s “holy days”
  • Practice time management and find a common definition for schedules and deadlines
  • Train awareness for cultural diversity in order to overcome stereotypes and appreciate diversity

Diversity Is Good!

We should all bear in mind that cultural diversity is good and necessary not only for ourselves, but also for the organization we are working at! Various experiences can help us to get a better understanding of new markets. Multiple viewpoints make up a vibrant work environment and help to bring about more creative solutions than are possibly found within homogenous groups.  

Going abroad, we should be open-minded and accept and respect the new culture we may experience. Likewise, back home, we should learn from other cultures and integrate them into our daily lives. No matter whether it is with regards to ethnicity, religion, gender, or other areas — make diversity management your topic. Today is the perfect day to start!

Martina Ambiel is currently studying Human Resource Education & Management at the Munich School of Management. After her first degree in Business Administration she lived and worked in Salzburg, Madrid and Singapore.

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