The Not-So-Diverse Caribbean Workplace

The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the September issue of FirstCuts, the monthly ezine for Framework Consulting.

The topic surrounds a contentious issue — the diversity of our workplaces with respect to differences in sexual orientation.  The full article, along with public comments, can be found at

http://fwconsulting.blogspot.com/2008/09/not-so-diverse-caribbean-workplace_30.html

Here is an excerpt:

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The Not-So-Diverse Caribbean Workplace
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Global opinion is growing: the Caribbean is increasingly seen as one of the least inclusive, intolerant and unsupportive regions of the world as it relates to the matter of “differences.” The term “difference” is a fairly new one to the Caribbean workplace and it generally applies to obvious aspects such as race, gender, age,
religion, physical ability, etc. However, our international reputation is largely being tainted by our strident relationship to gays and homosexuality.

By extension, Caribbean companies and executives are not exactly seen as world leaders in the context of business tolerance.

The fact is that many of our territories’ populations have relatively little day-to-day exposure to people of other races, nationalities and beliefs. The tendency is to speak single languages as relatively few of our companies conduct business in other countries, even within the region. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few nights in a hotel in the vicinity of Times Square and I was reminded of what it was like to be surrounded by people of backgrounds different from mine and languages from all corners of the globe. We simply don’t have the kind of diversity that is influencing the way the world’s most admired companies relate to people who are “different.”

It might be no mistake that the CEO of Jamaica’s largest company, the Government, recently announced to the international public that he is unwilling to accept gays at the highest levels of his organization.

When asked in a recent BBC interview if he would allow gays to take up senior government positions, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Hon. Bruce Golding, replied emphatically, “Not in my cabinet!” I might be wrong in thinking that he is not the only CEO/Prime Minister/Chairman to have these views in the region.
While he may be the only CEO with these views, the effect of his words are far-reaching, as presumably they must have some impact on the entire Government of Jamaica, which coincidentally is the
largest employer in Jamaica. (The link to the interview is given in the next section.)

Clearly, his idea of an inclusive, diverse workplace has its limits.

If he is seen as a typical representative of a “regional CEO,” what are the pros and cons to companies when executives adopt this approach either publicly or privately? What does it mean for business and what is its impact on stock-holders, employees, customers and other stakeholders? Even though the societal
impacts are many, here in FirstCuts I will only focus on the impact his words and our attitudes, may have on the financial success of our corporations.

To read the full article, see http://fwconsulting.blogspot.com/2008/09/not-so-diverse-caribbean-workplace_30.html

Subscriptions are free, and can be initiated with an email to [email protected]

Francis Wade

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