Nov 09 2004

Diversity Key Idea

Published by at November 9, 2004 4:05 pm under Cross-cultural Training,Global Culture,Globalization

Bettina Byrd-Giles, program director for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Office of Diversity… defined globalization as “networks of interdependence at worldwide distances,” noting McDonald’s Corp.’s reach around the world, Mercedes’ arrival in Alabama and the outsourcing of customer call centers to India and elsewhere as examples of those networks.

With globalization will come increasing diversity, Giles said. According to research, the U.S. population should hit about 325 million by 2020, including 70 million immigrants, Giles said. The percentage of white non-Hispanics in the population will shrink to about 64.3 percent, while the percentage of blacks, Asians and Hispanics will all rise to 12.9 percent, 6.5 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

That means a changing work force and customer base and with it, the need for a better understanding of cultural differences, Giles said. For example, Americans tend to be individualistic, while many other cultures are collective. Societies that behave more collectively tend to make decisions as a group and to take longer doing it. They also tend to rely more on relationships.

While individualistic thinkers tend to be direct communicators, people who live collectively use less direct means of making a point in order to maintain the harmony of the group, she said.

Awareness of such differences can help you better understand how people behave and react to one another — and do business, she said.

“It’s a lot more than just being polite to each other.”

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