Multiculturalism In America Essay, Research Paper
Multiculturalism In Corporate America:
Who Benefits, And Why Should I Care?
We’ve reached the age in which global structures have become the key components of any viable corporation. Large or small, corporate America is now recognizing the importance of reaching out to other nations. No longer an issue of whether or not one will choose to become international, if you’re in business, it’s almost a fact of life. The United States itself has blossomed into a nation of some 103 cultures from around the world. As a result, we’ve become international right here at home.
To many people in America’s corporations, the word “multicultural” has become synonymous with civil rights and affirmative action. Junior executives sent to multicultural and cultural diversity seminars frequently ask what multiculturalism has to do with them. And just as often, someone in the room will reply, “It’s good business. It’s the bottom line.”
But multiculturalism is more than good business and the bottom line. From the marketing standpoint, it’s natural to assume you’ll want to learn some of the customs and societal bugaboos if you’re marketing in a foreign land. Yet if you’re plunging into international waters, you’d better know more than how to sink or swim. Doing business with just the bare essentials of what you think will be acceptable in another culture can be a costly lesson to learn!
In the American business world, we’re inclined to rush, moving to a first name basis often by the second contact, and just as often, expecting to close hot deals in a matter of a week or two. But people in other parts of the world have developed their business relationships to a high degree. The most successful corporate leader might know a client’s entire family — from kids to the grandparents on both sides, and even know which of the kids has asthma — before s/he closes that important sale. To those who are just now beginning to tread these waters, learning what feels like every intimate detail of a potential client’s life before those deals are made may seem like a trivial pursuit, especially if these beginners don’t succeed in closing that first or second deal. So why bother? In the international marketplace, this method of doing business is the crux of whether or not someone will trust you, and trust is at the very heart of many international businesses. Patience will be a virtue for Americans in the foreign markets.
“We have a tendency to believe if it’s good enough for America, it’s good enough elsewhere,” Donald Utroska of Paul R. Ray & Co., Inc., in Geneva, Switzerland told World Trade reporter Robin Tierney in a 1993 special report. “You can’t just set a U.S. template on another country.”
Yet even in America, taking the time to learn more about multiculturalism and to develop a multicultural attitude will be critical, not only in the marketplace itself, but even at the most basic level of staff development. Whether you’re a small business owner of the candy store on Main Street, Any City, USA, or you’re one of the big boys who recognizes the entire world as your corporate playground, the key to “more” success begins with the attitude. Multiculturalism isn’t about race and gender relations. It’s the art of developing awareness, acceptance, understanding, and adaptation to the nuances of each one of our world’s cultures, races and religions.
The melting pot concept spoke of all Americans being part of the enormous “culture stew” we call America. Born on the New York theater stage in 1908, thanks to an English Jewish playwright named Israel Zangwill, the play, “The Melting Pot,” was a complete bomb with the critics. But the term itself lingered in the hearts of many people who saw the United States of America as a place where historical hurts from their homelands could be erased. The chances that these newcomers had felt like outsiders in their native lands were strong, and they certainly wanted to feel like they belonged to this new nation they called home.
But America was not the nation they’d been promised, where the streets were paved with gold. Many newcomers knew that from experience because “they” were doing the paving! As a result, people began to realize that the concept of the melting pot just wasn’t realistic. Every one of our ancestors had added something special to that culture stew, whether it was from their geographical and cultural perspective, religious beliefs, or something more visible: a racial classification.
Understanding why the melting pot didn’t work as well as people in 1908 had hoped, helps us to understand the differences in the terminology when we speak of multiculturalism. In contrast to the melting pot, multiculturalism encourages us to take pride in our own roots first, in our ingredients we’ve added to what has become America’s multicultural stew. Still important is the mindset that we shall not forget that we are now Americans and are part of a larger, more diverse culture. The nation’s promise lies in that multicultural stew, and by appreciating our own cultures, we develop an eagerness to learn about others’ origins – whether at home in the USA or on foreign shores.
We seem to have no problem in adapting to changes in marketing techniques, yet adaptation to other cultures seems almost inconsequential in the United States. Business, large or small ,begins with people. A willingness to adapt to demographic shifts and the needs of any internal or external organization will show in profit margins. A willingness to develop positive intercultural relationships from the ground floor up, in the home office workforce, or with clients around the globe, will determine the long-range business success that goes far beyond those profit margins.
Where to begin? Seek out the services of a multicultural consultant who offers diversity training beyond the tolerance levels, if possible on an annual basis. As your workforce demographics change, your needs will change, and a top-notch consultant will be able to assist in this area. If possible, utilize their services for in-house facilitator training seminars as well. Multiculturalism begins at home, but you will reap the benefits from around the world.