Defining Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism as it applies to management can be defined as the view that there are many different cultural backgrounds and factors that are important to organizations, and that people from different backgrounds can coexist and flourish within an organization. Usually multiculturalism refers to cultural factors such as ethnicity, race, gender, physical ability and sexual orientation, but sometimes age and other factors added. Multiculturalism is a basic premise of American society Contrary to those who claim that concern with multiculturalism is the foundation or the current emphasis on political correctness. The belief that people from many different backgrounds can work together is fundamental to democracy and the American way of life.

The Workforce 2000 Report

While many of the issues surrounding multiculturalism ad diversity have been around for a long time, many organizations adopted a renewed concern with the publication of the Hudson Institute’s 1987 report, entitled Work force 2000. The report identified four key trends expected to become more important as the 20th century draws to a close. First, the report predicted that renewed productivity growth will lead to a healthier US economy. Second, manufacturing will become a smaller part of that economy as service jobs become a bigger factor in creating wealth and new jobs. Third, these new service industry jobs will require a high level of skill, leading to employment for the educated and unemployment for the uneducated. Finally, the demographic composition of the workforce in the US will become older more female, and more disadvantaged. The percentage of white males in the workforce was 47 percent in 1987 when the report was issued, but the report predicted the percentage of new white males entering the workforce will be greatly reduced. Estimates have varied from 15 to 30 percent.
Six policy initiatives are suggested to cope with these changes:

1. Stimulate balanced world economic growth.
2. Increase efforts to stimulate productivity in service industries.
3. Maintain the adaptability and flexibility of the aging workforce
4. Help resolve the often conflicting needs of women in relation to work and family.
5. Work to integrate African American and Hispanic American workers more fully into the economy.
6. Improve the education of all workers

Concurrent with the release of the “Workplace 2000” report, many organizations began to worry more than ever about how to manage such a diverse workforce. How could women, Hispanic Americans, African Americans and others with cultural heritages different from white males be integrated into the workforce? Many organizations began to have ‘diversity programs’ or ‘multiculturalism programs.

In a more recent study, it was concluded that the labor supply is becoming more global. This will ensure that any particular company has an even more diverse labor pool from which to draw its workers. Most of the population growth is occurring in developing economies where the workforce is relatively young and the educational level is rapidly improving. Over 570 million of the 600 million new workers entering the workforce will come from these developing economies such as Mexico, Indonesia, Philippines, etc. Although the statistics on women in the workforce vary widely by country, many more women will enter the workforce all over the world. Organizations will have more choices about where to locate their facilities to take advantage of particular labor markets, and will thus be forced to learn to accommodate many different cultural factors into their individual organizational cultures.

Gender Issues in Multiculturalism:

One important dimension of diversity in organizations is gender diversity. The Workforce 2000 studies point out that the workforce is rapidly moving from being male-dominated to one of equality in numbers between men and women. Nevertheless there remain many barriers for women seeking equal treatment in most organizations.

Glass ceiling: While there are more women in the workforce than ever before, they are still in junior positions. Only a handful of women are chief executives of large companies Studies estimate that men hold 97 percent of the top positions, and women comprise fewer tan 0.5 percent of the highest-paid officers and Directors’ positions in the top 1000 US companies. Now after the year 2006 the position has changed and is continuously changing globally including Asian countries and there are considerable women CEOs of leading companies. There are cases where women of Indian origin are heading even U.S companies.