Cultural Differences

Cultural diversity, as well as cultural prejudice, is present in our lives and is a fact that we have to live with and dutifully accept. It is only recently that professionals have realized that they cannot ignore the pressing issues involved in serving culturally diverse populations. Cultural values, beliefs and assumptions are known to influence mental health of workers and other professionals in the provision of their services. These cultural experiences, traditions, beliefs and assumptions shape the way we view the world. As such, professionals should be aware of their beliefs and strive to separate them from their jobs. It is considered a good, ethical practice to work effectively by appreciating and understanding a client’s cultural beliefs, assumptions and traditions. In this modern era, it is an ethical responsibility for professionals to provide services that show respect for a client’s cultural worldview’s, values and traditions. Duran, Firehammer and Gonzalez (2008), assert that one’s culture is the part of his/her soul. In the event that the culture is suppressed or wounded, the whole person is wounded.

Cultures, traditions and customs cannot be ignored in the business. They are a major controlling factor in the business environment. The world is undergoing a period of rapid globalization. Globalization refers to the increasing economic integration among countries. This process is characterized by geographical alignment of networks of production, consumption and sides of the power. It is, therefore, the opening up of regional and national boundaries, and increasing relationship between countries. Integration of economies on a worldwide basis considers this world as a single market. The production is a subset of local economies more than national economies connected by investment, trade and production flows. Businesses that aim at working on a global scale must, therefore, embrace cultural diversity and use it as an instrument for progress rather than view it as an obstacle (Abu-Ghaida & Klasen, 2003).

Different cultures and customs exist in every different part of the world, and they are what color the world. The title of the book ‘Half the sky’ is taken from the popular Chinese proverb ‘women hold up half the sky.’ In some developed and developing countries, this is more of an aspiration than fact. Gender gaps persist in education, health, work, wages and political participation. These gender gaps are mainly facilitated by prevalent cultures and traditions in the communities. Education is significant, in order to achieve gender equality. Promoting girls’ education leads to higher salaries; lower fertility; higher chances of working outside the home; reduced maternal and infant mortality; and better health and education. The effect is not only felt in women’s lifetimes, but also in education, health, and output of forthcoming generations. However, most cultures, especially in developing countries, do not value educating their women. For instance, some cultures in Africa explain this culture by asserting that when a woman is married; all the benefits of educating her will accrue to her husband and his family. Furthermore, most cultures are afraid of the empowering nature of education. Educated women with opinions are considered unruly and rebellious. Although, sprouting views of women’s roles over the past fifty years have moved the reality nearer to the objective, there are still substantial cracks in many countries.

  Girls’ obstinate under-enrollment across the educational spectrum is fueled by a multifaceted combination of factors, often lumped under the title of ‘culture.’ Its pervasiveness across so many nations intensely suggests that parents consider the returns to girls’ education are inadequate and lower than those for boys. This view is, however, a misperception and an unlucky one at that. Frequent studies have proved that the returns to girls’ edification are higher than for young men. On average, returns to girls’ edification are appraised to be a full percentage point greater than those to boys’ – if females have the opportunity to toil. Most obstacles to girl’s education fall clearly into the ‘cultural’ bucket. Some of them include; the fact that women may ‘transfer out’ of their own kin upon marriage, letting their husbands’ families earn the returns on their edification; anxieties about security and hygiene (especially the availability of toilets) at school; lack of female tutors; and the portrayal of women and  girls in the curriculum. For instance, in some books, males are hardly portrayed doing household tasks, while contented women are seldom shown doing anything else. This further propagates the mindset that women are only meant to stay at home doing household chores. Males are depicted as leaders, liberators, heroes, inventors, problem solvers and as adventuresome and proactive. Girls are panicky, incompetent in the use of technology, need to be rescued, easily duped or surprised, and shown desperate or in distressing situations. The motives explaining why different civilizations fail to educate their female offspring varies form one community to another. Nevertheless, some of the shared reasons are economic strain, limited returns to the immediate family and the opportunity cost of being in school.

Debatably, there may be no better investment for the growth, development and health of third world nations around the world than investments to educate girls. Over a range, of countries at diverse stages of economic growth and development, female edification has been linked to higher incomes; lower fertility (and thus lower population growth rate); reduced maternal  and children ‘s death of children; and better wellbeing and tutoring, for women, as well as their children. Looking at the debate from a macroeconomic stage, female edification is related to higher economic productivity, higher yields to speculation and better yields from agriculture, and more encouraging demographic organization. Since education supports economic growth, growth in turn supports further advancements in health, education and productivity, thereby creating a virtuous circle that spreads the achievements to human capital.

Women are a large part of the developing countries untapped resources. Cultures and traditions of different communities affect the business environment adversely. Businesses have to check the cultural practices of an area or region during the feasibility study. A business has to know how to approach a society, and adapt to its cultures and traditions. As companies embark on global expansion, cultural diversity becomes a complicated part that has to be adequately dealt with by the management. Managing cultural diversity needs to be incorporated into the corporation culture right from the top management of a company (International Monetary Fund, 2007).

Cultural barriers can create volatile hitches, as corporations set up offices and production around the globe. To many organizations, global diversity and cultural variances are considered difficult to overcome, rather than as tools to be swayed for the global business prosperity. Multinationals often perceive the cultural diversity and differences within their operations as a problematic area rather than as an opportunity to draw their competitive advantage. This fact is well demonstrated by a study conducted in the early 1980s by Laurent and Adler. International executives and managers of multinationals attending management workshops in France were requested to list the merits and demerits of cultural diversity for their firms. From the study, all participants were able to ascertain demerits, while less than thirty percent could identify any benefit of cultural diversity as a driver for globalization (Psacharopoulos & Patrinos, 2004).

In most cases, understanding and appreciating the nature and value of cultural multiplicity is not well entrenched within business thinking and practice. In more ways than one, the mentality of many organizations has not developed according to the trends in globalization.  Despite the fact that more than seventy five percent of major American firms focus on diversity as a strategic gain and business leverage in the United States, little has been done to carry over this attitude internationally. These firms find themselves in the bewildering position of trying to carry over to other countries those diversity programs that were originally intended for the local workforce. This practice is bound to fail, because societies overseas are different from the native societies in our country in many aspects.

Appreciating the nature of cultural diversity aids businesses to comprehend a society’s needs and wants. This further aids in integrating international products with local products in an ethical method and reduces communication errors with clients. Dependable and solid culture is significant, and managers need to understand the similarities and differences across national boundaries.

Cultural multiplicity and differences in tastes and preferences can be harnessed by multinational organizations to provide extra profit. For instance, Coca cola, a multinational company incorporated in Atlanta has grown to serve over one hundred and eighty four countries worldwide. This is because of its synergistic management approach. The company realizes the power and potential that can be drawn from different cultures, societies and their varying tastes and preferences. As a result, the company invests millions of dollars in research and development of products that match the tastes and preferences of all communities. This has in turn resulted in building of a global brand that reaps billions of dollars per year in profit.

The synergistic approach of management recognizes and understands that cultural multiplicity may result in massive benefits or losses for the firm. Therefore, the firm picks out the best parts of a culture and incorporates them into its management style. The employees and members of the organization are trained to recognize and respect cultural differences. In order for a firm operating across different cultures to succeed, the top management has to incorporate a number of values into its employees. These may include; building cohesion and teamwork, ensuring there is a quality dialogue between the stakeholders, developing knowledge of cultural alterations among employees and establishing feedback mechanisms to review the team processes. 

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