Can diversity be effectively glocal?

Business talks so much about globalisation that we could easily assume that we live and work in a global reality. And in many respects, there is truth in universal aspects of everyday life – and we may or may not like the fact that business hotels, city centre shops and even restaurants or theatre shows can look and feel very similar around the globe. For D&I, international corporations ask themselves how to practically apply the idea of a global framework for Diversity & Inclusion that brings everyone together under one umbrella while accommodating regional and country specifics. Let’s face it: Even within one country organisation, there can be quite many conflicting views on and preferences for (or against) diversity. Multiplying this on a global scale can be scary. Hence, many companies kept their global definitions quite general – sometimes not even generic. The downside of this clearly is that a fluffy global definition (e.g. “all the differences and similarities that make us unique”) does achieve what is needed in the first place: Unite people behind a common understanding that relates D&I with corporate realities.

Getting more concrete will sooner or later lead to difficult decisions where a company has to position itself regarding ethnic minorities, religion or sexual orientation, which tend to be the most disputed topics. But even age or gender can be sensitive in some of the world’s geographies. Only when a company is clear on those fundamental aspects of people, they can move on to ‘diversity of thought’, ‘variety of skills’ and the many other factors that are of immediate relevance in the workplace. Obviously, personal demographics and deeper (underwater) facets come as an individual package, which is why we all deal with the multiple dependencies complex individuals bring to work. One of the easy inroads in this context is Internationality: welcoming experts from other countries and cultures has been a quick and simple exercise for most businesses, and it felt natural for many – including the learning curve they had to pass. When it comes to local ethnic minorities – who might be from similar cultural backgrounds as the most-wanted international experts – the tone changes from major to minor: Suddenly, many barriers are up in the air and all kinds of discussions take place regarding difficult outreach and integration. Special programmes must be created and initiatives will be under observation. Reflecting on this discrepancy between admiring international experts and struggling with local minorities is one of the D&I exercises that creates real insight. Just like reading this issue of EMEA DiversityNews … Enjoy!