Merging Social Responsibility And Diversity

As a professor at the University of Southern California, Michalle Mor Barak’s research projects focus on how diversity, work-family balance, social support and corporate social responsibility impact businesses around the world. She studies how these qualities affect an organization, transform office culture and increase an employee’s job satisfaction, which can ultimately boost corporate commitment and lead to improved retention. She has been recognized by several national and international management organizations for offering a fresh perspective of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Mor Barak shared her thoughts on inclusion and diversity with Diversity Executive.

Why is having an inclusive workplace a benefit to an organization?
There is now accumulating research evidence that the benefits of inclusive diversity practices center around three areas: (a) the opportunity to drive business growth and productivity by leveraging the many facets of diversity, such as marketing more effectively to minority communities or to senior citizens, (b) cost savings due to lower turnover, less absenteeism, and improved productivity and winning the competition for talent by being more attractive to women and members of minority groups, and (c) the positive effect that diversity management has on the company’s image, public good will and even stock prices.

What is the most significant way organizations can create an inclusive workplace?
The concept of the inclusive workplace refers to a work organization that is not only accepting and utilizing the diversity of its own workforce, but is also active in the community, participates in state and federal programs to include population groups such as immigrants, women and the working poor; and collaborates across cultural and national boundaries with a focus on global mutual interests.

How is global diversity management unique?
With the globalizing economy and the increase in multinational corporations, diversity management no longer refers solely to the heterogeneity of the workforce within one nation, but often refers also to the workforce composition across nations. The first type, intranational diversity management, refers to managing a diverse workforce of citizens or immigrants within a single national organizational context. An example would be a German company instituting policies and training programs for its employees to improve sensitivity and provide employment opportunities to members of minority groups and recent immigrants in its workforce.

The second type, cross-national diversity management, refers to managing a workforce composed of citizens and immigrants in different countries (e.g., a Korean company with branches in Japan, China, and Malaysia establishing diversity policies and training that will be applicable in its headquarters and also in its subsidiaries in these countries). Each of these types of diversity management presents different challenges and dilemmas, and each requires a different set of policies and programs. In addition to practicing within the laws and social norms of its home country, cross-national diversity management requires employers to take into consideration the legislative and cultural context in other countries, depending on where their workforce resides.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the global diversity sphere?
One of the biggest challenges for organizations today is to identify and train leaders who can create an inclusive workplace. In order to provide vision and inspire their organizations, effective leaders need to understand the multiplicity of values, perspectives and worldviews that individuals and groups may hold dear and use their cultural intelligence in different settings to create an inclusive and effective work environment. An effective leader must be able to cope with contrasting economic, political and cultural practices in both the national and international contexts.

Jessica DuBois-Maahs is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at