- Managing Diversity: toward a globally inclusive workplace
In a book of 16 chapters divided into three main sections, Michàlle E Mor Barak addresses how diversity can be ‘managed’ in the workplace. Managing Diversity Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace succeeds in highlighting the importance for companies to address issues of diversity, particularly given the global trends which are increasingly creating a more diverse workforce. Mor Barak notes that progressively more countries in the global North are experiencing low birth rates (for example Italy’s population of 57 million is projected to decrease to 41 million by 5050), while countries in the global South are experiencing higher numbers of young people, largely due to improved medical conditions and decreased infant mortality. More than half of the population in developing countries, for instance, is under the age of 30. The net effect is that countries in the global North have to open their borders to immigrants – and strive toward greater diversity – in order to sustain and improve productivity in their countries.
The book is accessible to academics and managers alike, and also to those outside the business world. Mor Barak presents a comprehensive and holistic approach to diversity ‘management’, together with the steps that organisations can effect in order to achieve this diversity. She notes that many of the problems experienced in the name of diversity do not stem from the heterogeneity of the workforce itself, but rather from the failure of managers to understand the dynamics associated with diversity. Managers generally find it difficult to address their own prejudices and are therefore [End Page 168] unable to harness the potential offered by diversity in the workplace. In highlighting this, she argues for the need to see diversity as an advantage and not a disadvantage, particularly given the diverse workplaces that exist today. Mor Barak maintains that the question should be less about whether diversity is good for the workplace and more about how diversity can work for organisations. She explains diversity as something that is inescapable, and considers the tensions which are posed by what she calls a ‘global workforce’. It is in the context of the global and diverse workforce that Mor Barak introduces us to her framework for inclusion in the workplace.
Mor Barak is as much concerned for the local as she is for the global. Through her inclusive workplace model, she introduces what could be characterised as a ‘funnel’ approach, as the model is a multi-step approach which takes diversity from the local level right up to the global. Her model introduces the reader to four levels of an inclusive workplace. She notes that a globally inclusive workplace is one which ‘values and utilises individual and intergroup differences within its workforce; cooperates with, and contributes to, its surrounding community; alleviates the needs of disadvantaged groups within its wider environment; [and] collaborates with individuals, groups, and organisations across national and cultural boundaries.’ (2011: 8). By adopting this approach, Mor Barak asserts that the responsibility of companies and organisations does not only rest with the companies or organisations themselves, but also with the local and global communities within which they exist.
Mor Barak divides her book into three main sections that profile the macro dimensions of diversity (chapters 2–5), micro/mezzo dimensions of diversity (chapters 6–9) and practice applications (chapters 10–16). In the macro dimensions she highlights the global demographic trends and the relevant international legislation and policies on diversity. An impressive discussion of policy trends internationally is discussed alongside the frame of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which grants freedom to individuals simply for being human. It is in this context that companies are encouraged to aspire for a more globally inclusive workplace.
In the micro/mezzo dimensions, Mor Barak explores global definitions of diversity, and presents us with her own definition which captures varied interpretations and understandings of diversity from a global perspective. I address the details of this definition together with its importance in the latter part of this review. This section of the volume...