Diversity and inclusion in a Multinational Corporation: Senior Managers' perceptions across three Asian regions
Ponce-Pura, Maria Perpetua
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This two-phase research evaluates diversity and inclusion by examining the perceptions of senior management about diversity and inclusion policies and practices in a US-based multinational corporation (MNC) in Asia. Research was carried out in three regional offices represented by India, Australia and Vietnam. Phase 1 is a preliminary case study in India Region. Phase 2 is a comparative study of senior managers’ perceptions and attitudes toward diversity and inclusion policies and practices in the India Region, Australia Region and Vietnam Region. Data was gathered between 2010 and 2012 using quantitative and qualitative methods. A survey and an interview were conducted in Phase 1 while company survey results were utilized in Phase 2. The results were presented based on percentages of favourable, neutral and unfavourable scores for each question, and were described according to the company criteria as ‘strengths’, ‘opportunities for improvement’ and ‘areas of concern’ respectively. These data were supplemented by secondary information such as company policies and reports. Findings from Phase 1 revealed a generally favourable perception of diversity and inclusion from predominantly male senior managers in the company’s regional office in India. Results indicated that diversity and inclusion were widely understood and accepted as necessary for the business to succeed. Of particular interest was the strong positive attitude of the managers towards initiatives introduced to embed diversity and inclusion such as the Women’s Council. Such attitudes suggest a possible sensitivity to a common goal of advancing women’s interest in the workplace. Comparative results in Phase 2 showed that female senior managers generally, perceived diversity and inclusion less favourably than males. The number of diversity and inclusion policies and practices perceived as strengths by the male senior managers were greater than the strengths indicated by their female counterparts. There were mixed results when overall perceptions of senior managers were compared by region, thus indicating the importance of relational context in transferring diversity and inclusion policies and practices from the company global headquarters to the regional offices in Asia. Differing perceptions were also found for male and female responses on some specific human resource policies and practices directed towards diversity and inclusion, suggesting the company still needs to focus on important issues like gender and discrimination, leadership support on diversity and inclusion, and work-life balance. Considering the limited organisational level studies on diversity and inclusion within the Asian context, this research contributes to the emerging field of research exploring the relational model in diversity management and linking the macro, meso and micro contexts of the three regional offices of the MNC. This model provided a comprehensive perspective of diversity management within a single organisation with multiple branches of operation. Despite its limitations, the study managed to address the divergence between various diversity management elements through the analysis of senior managers’ perceptions, taking into consideration the specific regional contexts within which the multinational organisation operates. The results support the greater explanatory value that a relational approach to diversity management brings. A relational model of diversity bridges macro, meso and micro levels of analysis, resulting in different perceptions across different regional offices within the same organisation. Although the study was limited to one organisation, the strengths of this research were demonstrated in terms of the following contributions: first, this research serves as a starting point in addressing the scarcity of empirical work on the study of diversity management specifically using the multi-level relational model; it contributes to the small amount of diversity research that has been carried out in Asia; second, it provides critical insights at an organisational level when implementing human resource management policies and practices aimed to address diversity issues; third, it underscores the variable perceptions of gender issues across different regions and highlights the importance of macro-contextual factors in diversity management practice; and lastly, it shares the researcher’s valuable experience in overcoming the challenges of an insider-researcher.