light bulb moment Unconscious bias leadership

Case studies

A comparative study on acceptance of cultural diversity and gender diversity among employees in IT industry, Bangalore

Indian academic research, July 2014

Globalisation of the IT industry, particularly in India, has created tremendous competitive advantages for many multinationals, but have these multinationals considered the highly diverse nature of their workforce and employees’ level of acceptance of this diversity? By Juliet Bourke - Consulting, Partner.

The globalisation of the economy and subsequent off-shoring of many multinational organisations’ IT functions to India is not only transforming the country but additionally its workforce. India’s IT industry has emerged as an internationally leading IT hub with a diverse workforce. How accepting is the workforce of its diversity? Recent research by Professor Dr. Bagali and Research Scholar Rao Shareelatha (Jain University, Bangalore) examined two dimensions of workforce diversity acceptance: cultural diversity and gender diversity. Dr. Bagali and Shareelatha also considered whether organisations are investing enough in programs to monitor and develop diversity acceptance as an essential part of globalisation efforts.

Bagali and Shareelatha found that acceptance of both cultural diversity and gender diversity was positive (although gender diversity was slightly less so); however, when the acceptance of cultural diversity was compared to the acceptance of gender diversity it showed that there was a significant difference in acceptance of the two dimensions. In particular, in IT companies in India, cultural diversity was more accepted than gender diversity. The research concluded that there was a very real need for proper and effective diversity management practices within IT organisations located in India.

light bulb moment bias leadership diversity

Aim

This research aimed to investigate the:

  • Acceptance of cultural diversity among employees
  • Acceptance of gender diversity among employees
  • Gap between cultural diversity acceptance and gender diversity acceptance among employees, in IT companies located in India.

Method

The research was originally designed by engaging in an exploration exercise with IT and HR experts from various IT companies via an opinion survey and a subsequent focus group interview. The output of these activities was then used to design a five-point Likert scale rated questionnaire to gauge the perception of employees’ acceptance of cultural diversity and gender diversity. This questionnaire was then validated for reliability via a pilot study of 100 employees. The final sample comprised 600 respondents (337 male and 263 female) from 30 IT companies. Acceptance was defined as the perception of employees towards understanding, valuing and accepting differences and similarities present in the workforce e.g. an employee’s perception of ‘comfortable to work with people of other countries’.

Findings

The key finding showed that although the acceptance of both cultural diversity and gender diversity were positive, when the two dimensions were compared to each other there was a significant gap in the acceptance of the two dimensions.

The findings showed that:

  • The acceptance of cultural diversity was high among employees. The employees agreed that cultural diversity was important to the organisation and they valued the cultural differences in organisations
  • Employees’ perceptions to acceptance of gender diversity acceptance were also positive. However, when compared with acceptance of cultural diversity, this was low. This was based on responses to the statement “gender diversity is important to the organisation” and showed that employees’ receptivity to gender diversity was not highly accepted
  • There was a significant gap between acceptance of cultural diversity and acceptance of gender diversity. This significant gap pointed to a need for appropriate and effective diversity management practices.

Implications

As India is one of the countries that is benefiting from the globalisation process of IT, it is important to ensure that organisations entering into the market have a clear understanding of the differences in perceptions and attitudes of the workforce in relation to diversity and inclusion.

One takeaway from the research was that cultural diversity acceptance was strong. Given that India is a culturally diverse country, with a strong caste system; such a finding can be considered to be encouraging. Additionally, the diversity movement has brought the issue of equitable treatment of women and minorities in the country and as such Indian organisations are framing appropriate diversity and inclusion programs and therefore they need to know the difference in perceptions and attitudes of the Indian workforce.

There should be a focus on promoting the value of diversity, in particular gender diversity. As organisations continue to move to lower cost to serve models, such as offshoring functions to India (and this should not only be restricted to IT), they should be cognisant of the gender divide which has been evidenced by this research. A key insight for multinationals that are operating within India is to ensure that there is no risk to the organisations brand by workforce acceptance of diversity and inclusion. Finally, multinationals need to understand the implications to diversity reporting requirements of the organisation as a whole, particularly where this is a legal responsibility.

To read the full article, see Rao Shareelatha R., Bagali M. (2014) A Comparative Study on Acceptance of Cultural Diversity and Gender Diversity Among Employee in IT Industry, Bangalore, The International Journal of Business and Administration Research Review, Vol.I, No. 4, Nov-June (2014), pp 98 - 109. 

Did you find this useful?