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In autumnal Sydney about diversity

On my flight to Tokyo last year, headed for the 2017 Global Summit of Women, I mulled over the words of Władysław Bartoszewski, [a Polish politician, social activist, journalist, writer and historian,] which I ended up quoting in my speech. English was of course the common language at this international gathering. Conveniently for me, these words had already been translated into English, which makes them understandable for anyone in the world who speaks this language. Let me quote them here again.

Certainly, things worth doing are not always profitable but what’s more certain is that not everything that brings profit adds value to our lives.

Today, as I am bound for Sydney again to take part in another meeting of the most influential women in the world, my mind keeps going back to the same line by Władysław Bartoszewski. In his publications and speeches, the professor spoke out on a multitude of issues; thus, unsurprisingly he also touched on the question of differences – differences which ostensibly divide us but which actually incline us to learn from one another. It was he indeed who said that (…) appreciation of cultural diversity, a wide range of memories across generations, and a variety of traditions enriches a community (…). Never mind the original context – it is not important here. The line could be used in handbooks teaching many different courses. In all certitude, it is an important idea in business management.

Differences, and more specifically management of an international organisation where cultural differences should be treated as a value, not as a problem, will be the subject of my speech during this gathering of female political and business leaders from around the world, which is often referred to as „Davos for Women”. In this context, it is rather hard to expect that the English word diversity might be taken to mean anything other than gender diversity, but I would like to look at the problem more broadly and from a number of angles. I want to show that diversity of any kind, regardless of its nature, enriches organisational culture and we should take full advantage of the benefits it offers. Diversity should be seen as an opportunity. Screening it for problems is a mistake.

Managing in the context of diversity, often referred to as diversity management, or management in a multicultural environment, is part of my everyday job. ABC Data is a large organisation, with operations in ten countries, which is an active global player in business processes and which cooperates with both American and Chinese suppliers but being by no means limited to sourcing supplies from these two countries only. Multiculturalism is an inseparable part of its make-up, as is a cultural cooperation model whereby diversity is not an obstacle on its path to goal achievement but an asset. Effective diversity management in such a model has been shown by numerous studies to be a source of competitive advantage. The American entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes, publisher of the famous business magazine founded by his father, perfectly described assimilation of differences by saying it was the art of thinking independently together. I agree wholeheartedly.

Another aspect of operating in a multicultural environment: it’s hard to imagine successful talks with a far-eastern partner without being aware of and appreciating the fundamental significance of behavioural and cultural norms governing human relations, as for example in China. No, no, I didn’t get this wrong: I don’t mean to say we have to take into account certain selected aspects of the Chinese culture. We need much more than that! We must understand them, appreciate them and learn to draw from them. Guanxi, a relationship between business partners based on mutual respect and trust, nay friendship (sic!), is worth a more profound study, as is the idea that the measure of success is a compromise which all parties find acceptable.

I am really glad I will be able to talk about all this in a group of over one thousand women who are important players in the world of business and politics, at a meeting which is hosted by a powerful organisation. But that’s not the only reason for joy. Sydney will be another interlude for me, an autumnal interlude this time. I’ll pop for a moment from our faltering spring into the middle Australian autumn.

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The translated quotation is the last sentence in a lecture called „Reflections of the Witness of the Century” given at Warsaw University on 23 October 2007. Below is the original Polish wording:

Na pewno nie wszystko, co warto, to się opłaca, ale jeszcze pewniej (…) nie wszystko, co się opłaca, to jest w życiu coś warte.

The quotation about diversity comes from the book Władysław Bartoszewski. Wywiad rzeka, by Michał Komar.

Official page of the Global Summit of Women:

https://globewomen.org/globalsummit/

My last year’s presentation during the Global Summit of Women:

https://globewomen.org/globalsummit/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Ilona-Weiss.pdf

Link to the website of Henryka Bochniarz, member of the International Planning Committee 2018 Global Summit of Women:

http://bochniarz.pl/pl/o-kobietach/global-summit-of-women

On the importance of diversity management:

https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends/2017/diversity-and-inclusion-at-the-workplace.html

About Irene Natividad:

https://globewomen.org/globalsummit/?page_id=3772

Presentations:

In April 2018 I was speaker at the Global Summit of Women in Sydney, where I lectured about developing a global career path to leadership. You can find my presentation below or just click the title: “Cultural Intelligence for the Global Businesswoman”.

 

In May 2017 I was speaker at the Global Summit of Women in Tokyo, where I lectured about global leadership and GQ (Global Intelligence) see my presentation “Overcome limits. Break stereotypes.

 

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