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Nuturing Ethnic and Cultural diversity in Business - for success


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Nuturing Ethnic and Cultural diversity in Business - for success

  1. 1. aaeessttrroo Dealing with Diversity in Business Education Jonathan (Bilal) A.J. Wilson 084 // APR 2014 // Senior Lecturer & Course Leader, University of Greenwich, London UK Editor: Journal of Islamic Marketing, Emerald Group Publishing. Understanding And Addressing Diversity Is At The Heart Of Every Marketing Activity – Whether That’s On A Local, International, Or Global Level. As More Marketers Receive Formal Training And Qualifications, How Successful Are These Providers At Providing A Platform For Nuruturing Diverse Professionals Who Are Competent In The Art Of Implementing Diversity Concepts? In This Article, I Will Be Focussing On National, Ethnic, And Cultural Diversity.
  2. 2. // apr 2014 // 085 The presence and successful management of diversity should be appraised collaboratively as a wider social obligation, evident within the values of the organisation, subject material and stakeholders. The strategic aim is one of both wealth creation and risk reduction; by generating reciprocal financial and social capital amongst those involved. For most universities and training providers, diversity according to ethnicity, race, and nationalism are of more importance than just achieving legal compliance and best practice. They are critical success factors, increasingly used proactively as resources, engineered to present a competitive international market position. Notwithstanding such wide acceptance and positive endeavours within this field, a lack of sufficient diversity and nuanced understanding still remains. If not addressed and managed, then diversity or a lack of diversity may act as an inhibitor or barrier that undermines wider educational and business objectives. Furthermore, beyond ethnicity, race, and nationalism: factors associated with religion, gender issues, linguistics, high and low context cultures, uncertainty avoidance, society, and community also play a significant part. So much so that these supporting factors may become inseparable or synonymous with main biographical variables of race, ethnicity, and nationalism. For example in the State of Israel, approximately one fifth of the population are defined as Arab Israeli, and three quarters as Ethnic Jews. In general, Arabs and Jews are held to be a race, or an ethnic group. Historically, they have also been attributed to those who have undergone a process of cultural or linguistic conversion. Similarly, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, concepts of a Saudi Nationality and Nationalism are often terms used interchangeably with Arab, and Muslim. Furthermore terms such as ‘black’, used to denote ethnicity or an ethnic affiliation, depending on its usage and context, may be of value and relevance; but equally could be viewed as paradoxical, pejorative and counter-productive. Collectively, these examples highlight the nuanced contextualisation and influence of race, ethnicity, transnationalism, skin colour, language, and religion when constructing a distinguishable identity – especially outside of the Western world [the term ‘West’ in this context is interpreted and applied from a socio-cultural standpoint]. Diversity functions and factors Diversity in universities and training providers are best understood within a cultural paradigm. This consists of the formal and psychological contracts, which are concerned with the individual and collective traits, customs, norms, and values that constitute stakeholders’ decisions and judgements. This subject area encompasses the management, practices, rights, legislation and policies that govern stakeholder interactions and activities. These can be grouped into seven main functions: • Socio-cultural and societal factors • Government and Industry demands • Organisational and strategic objectives • Academic/trainers and non-academic/ training staff - Human Resource Management (HRM) • Student/delegate recruitment and welfare • Course structure, content, assessments and delivery • Marketing communications and branding of the business school, training provider, programmes and courses. For business schools and training providers, the presence and successful management of diversity should be evident within subject material and stakeholders; and appraised especially amongst faculty members and students alike. Attaining meaningful diversity is achieved through the collaborative reciprocal transmission of identified implicit, tacit, and explicit factors. In turn each of these factors should originate from and accommodate diverse perspectives. The following are a suggested list of key factors that should be evaluated and cross-referenced using quantitative and qualitative measures - according to population data and wider corporate practices within the region; and benchmarked across competing business schools internationally: Hard Values: Geo-biographical factors • Locations of course instruction
  3. 3. aaeessttrroo • Stakeholders’ countries of origin, nationality, and residency; languages spoken; race; ethnicity; religion • Compliance with legislation – locally, and level of comparability with other regions • Evidence of formal diversity training programmes, monitoring and policies in place • Recruitment and selection success rates, for students and employees, amongst national, racial, and ethnic groups • Student pass rates and grades amongst national, racial, and ethnic groups • Roles, responsibilities and promotion success rates amongst national, racial, and ethnic groups • Stakeholders’ exposure to these geo-biographical factors through work, study, recreation, and course material Soft Values: Associated preferential cultural factors: • Communication – Language and mode of transmission; dialects and slang; rhetoric; pitch, pace, and prose; haptics (touch); eye contact; and body language gestures • Interaction – Social transactions; high and low context governed cultures; uncertainty avoidance; social space; and group size preference • Network - diversity of cultural factors held within groups. 086 // mar 2014 // Many of these values are being collected by both public and private providers; as part of best practice, and increasingly as a source of data to present an international market position proactively. Providers are faced with a global and local market demand imperative, which exacts that they demonstrate diversity in their faculty, student population, course material, research activities, and industry networks. This is being driven especially by national and global University league tables, which incorporate this rationale and data in their research methodology and analysis. In addition, consumer initiated social media discussions, and news articles continue to signal the importance of diversity, and by extension equality. Diversity challenges However, notwithstanding all of these activities, disparities still remain especially within business schools, relative to the ethnic, racial and national groups within the same business school. Diversity is often restricted in its definition to being a management component - which both assumes and encourages participants to create a universally tenable working environment. This being the case, diversity only seems to become of significance if either problems arise, or they present a commercial gain. From this paradigm it can be argued that any explicitly derived knowledge and understanding may tend towards being superficial, sporadic, or at the very worst exploitative. As a result this polarizes individuals into those who champion diversity and those who do not. In accepting this, it also appears to present uncoordinated or short-term benefits, to only select parties. These occurrences therefore bring attention back to the starting point of this discussion. Namely, diversity is of increasing significance and what can be done to address this issue? When it comes to evaluating the student experience, in connection with the cultural factors stated, there appear to be added challenges. There is not always a clear and formal method by which the role and impact of diversity can be picked up, positioned or assessed. This could be due to the following factors: • Human Resources, Marketing, and governance functions are structured primarily to cater for employees and the interests of the business school. Students have little involvement and influence; and, as such, often are rendered secondary passive consumers. This is especially in cases where students feel that expressions of concern may alienate them, negatively affect grades, or reduce the likelihood of receiving additional
  4. 4. // apr 2014 // 087 support in areas such as seeking a future reference. • Within this framework, student interactions and the duty of care towards them are mainly transferred to academic staff, who have limited influence on policy. Furthermore, academic staff are rarely asked to collect or comment on crucial relevant data. • The championing of cultural diversity and its successes are perhaps seen as being self-evident, when viewing recruitment figures that largely reflect diverse backgrounds of stakeholders in comparison to other industries; and especially when focussing on student cohorts. With the UK as a case in practice, whilst it has some of the most extensive employment legislation in the world and high levels of demonstrable equality, there still remain concerns. Issues highlighted within a 54 page report compiled by the Equality Challenge Unit (2009); comprising of a literature review and empirical data, paint a less than favourable position. Views held by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) professionals in higher education indicate that a significant proportion of them state that they have experienced racism and/or racial discrimination. This is supported by a paucity of ethnic professorial appointments and senior managers. Mirroring this, the experiences of students seem to suggest that there is a “growing gap in attainment between white, black and Asian students” (Shepherd, 2009). Sulkowski and Deakin (2009) assert that ‘historically, education has taken the premise that all students are equally capable of learning regardless of ethnic background, social class or cultural origin.’ However their findings suggest that ‘the question of why non-native students in the UK still seem to be underperforming becomes somewhat inconvenient’. They conclude that a solution to this problem is dependent on lecturers making students aware of their intellectual abilities, and then developing them. Asmar (2005) supports this view by claiming that a greater cultural understanding and sensitivity to differences are necessary pursuits for UK lecturers. However, Asmar goes onto state that this is hampered by some, due to a perception that these students are actually a problem. Furthermore there also appears to be a “disturbing racial divide among universities” (Curtis, 2006; MacLeod, 2009). Classroom solutions Some of these issues can be addressed by breaking down potential barriers and opposition - through selling and demonstrating the benefits of diversity. Within the classroom, great efforts should be made to pronounce peoples names as they wish them to be pronounced (albeit causing some amusement at times, which eventually turns into appreciation); sharing anecdotes of encounters with different cultures and even attempts to learn the odd phrase in different languages. This creates an environment of cultural curiosity, which is then used to highlight and transmit the essentials and peculiarities of international academic and organizational cultures. The aim is to fill gaps and impart the softer, yet significant elements that will assist students in their studies. Furthermore, this drives a student-centred approach to course delivery, where students feel empowered to correct and coach the lecturer in a field which they have superior knowledge – namely their culture. The end result is a laddering process, which coaxes students towards venturing into preserving these dynamics, when discussing core course material. Following on from this, with more international students within the classroom, increased challenges are faced when lecturing and providing business case examples, which all parties are able to understand and interpret to the same degree and in a comparable fashion. This is especially problematic when setting more practical marketing assessments, which rely upon accessing current market data.
  5. 5. Personality & Cultural normalisation aaeessttrroo References • Asmar, C. (2005), Culture and Pedagogy – International Comparisons in Primary Education, Blackwell, Oxford. • Carvel, J. (2004). “Tebbit’s cricket loyalty test hit for six”, The Guardian online UK News section, Thursday 8th January, 2004 jan/08/britishidentity.race , [last viewed: 10th January 2014]. • Curtis, P. (2006), “Segregation, 2006 style”,, Race in education section, Tuesday 3rd January, http://www. raceineducation.highereducation , [last viewed: 10th January 2014]. • Equality Challenge Unit (2009), “The experience of black and minority ethnic staff working in higher education”, http:// bme-staff-in-he , [Downloaded: 10th January 2014] Explicit Implicit Implicit/Explicit • Gilroy, P. (2004), After Empire, London: Routledge. • Liu, J. and Wilson, J.A.J. (2011), “The impact of Culture and Religion on Leadership and Management Training: A Comparison of Three Continents”, Jurnal Pengurusan, 33, pp.29-36. • MacLeod, D. (2009), “Oxbridge universities fail to enrol ethnic minority students”,, Oxbridge and elitism section, Thursday 12th March, education/2009/mar/12/oxford-ethnic-minority, [last viewed: 10th January 2014]. • Manzoor, S. (2005). “We pass the Tebbit test. Britain is my home and so I have responsibilities. But I don’t have to sign up to a particular ‘way of life’ ”, The Observer online Comment section, Sunday 21st August 2005, http://www. politics , [last viewed: 10th January 2014]. • McCracken, G. (2009), Chief Cultural Officer, New York: Basic Books. • Shepherd, J. (2009), “White students do better that their Asian and black peers, study finds”,, Higher education section, Tuesday 27th October, education/2009/oct/27/white-students-black- asian-gap, last viewed: [10th January 2014]. • Sulkowski, N. B., Deakin, M. K. (2009), “Does understanding culture help enhance students’ learning experience?”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp.154-166. • Wilson, J.A.J. (2010), “When in Britain, do as the British do – if anyone knows that that means. Multiculturalism in a ‘British’ university business school”, Multicultural Education and Technology Journal, Vol.4 Issue 4, pp.220-233. For example, the nuances associated with broadsheet versus tabloid newspapers and their reliability; or the difference between commercial and public broadcasters, in terms of carrying paid for advertising and product placement. Because of this, additional time has to be spent inducting students and at times this involves almost giving them a crash course on popular culture. Within this crash course for example, explanations surrounding slang have been provided and the fact that words like ‘wicked’ and ‘sick’ may in fact have very different meanings, depending on the context. However, it has to be made clear also that within formal academic writing, there remains one acceptable interpretation. These facts are crucial - as in advertising, language is often reflective of its usage by the target audience; but this is not always apparent to some students. Furthermore, this does not render such syntax and definitions acceptable for general academic usage. The secondary effect derived from all of these collaborative activities, is that through students’ contributions, it is felt that their own cultural norms should permeate processes [Figure]. The idea being that collaborative acculturation should set the agenda in harnessing diversity and preserving knowledge transfer. Without such appreciation and proactivity, it is possible that the effects of culture, from so many different cultures, stagnates learning - plunging it into being passive shallow recall-based understanding. The long-term implications of not addressing this are that all parties involved, from the lecturer to the student, experience a hampered knowledge transfer and unfortunately leave with less intellectual capital than could have been attained. With such scrutiny and media attention surrounding these issues, this subject is likely to generate added suspicion and perhaps a debilitating vote of no-confidence amongst some BME students and professionals - which can only be overcome through persistent efforts and increased resources over a longer timeframe. University Culture Personality of Lecturer Personality of Students Collective Evolutionary Culture Explicit Explicit Drivers Lecturer initiated Collaboration Culture creation Figure. Collaborative acculturation - leading the agenda in harnessing diversity and preserving knowledge transfer (Wilson, 2010) 088 // apr 2014 //