Defining Culture – Impacting Our World

Special Editions


JUNE 2023

Edited by Huib Wursten


Huib Wursten,

Eric Alexander DeGroot,

Table of content

Editorial: Huib Wursten

Tessa Sutton (USA) & Chris Cartwright (USA) Connecting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belongingness with Intercultural Competence

Pia Kähärä (Finland) and Valeria Rodríguez Brondo (UruquayThe Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) paradox.: how can we respect cultural diversity and, at the same time, be in line with our DEI policies?

Prof. Mette Zølner, (DenmarkInterpretive and critical perspectives: which additional comprehension of Diversity management?

Brigitte Opel (Germany, Netherlands) Diversity Equity and Inclusion in an international setting.

Elizabeth A. Tuleja, Ph.D., ACC (USA) Inclusive leadership. Finding solutions through cultural competence.

Fernando Lanzer (Brasil) Managing DEI in Different Cultures

Huib Wursten (NetherlandsD.E.I. and Mental Images. The rules of the game.

Paulo Finuras, PhD (PortugalEvolution and the fear of rejection – why is the need for inclusion a human universal?

Chika Miyamori (Japan) Reiko Tashiro (Japan) Gender inequality in the Japanese Workplace and the Influence of National Culture

Editorial: Huib Wursten

This special of the Culture Impact Journal is about the influence of Culture on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

To appreciate this issue, it is important to understand the context of how Diversity came into focus. First is that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created a new touchstone for morality: equal rights for everybody, whatever their gender, color of skin, sexual preferences, religion, etc.

Based on this thinking, the D.E.I. programs can be traced back to the civil rights movement in the U.S.A. of the 1960s.

A brief overview of how the programs in the U.S.A. evolved:

– In the 1960s, the U.S. government introduced affirmative action programs to promote equal opportunities for underrepresented groups in education and employment. These programs required employers and educational institutions to consider race and gender in their selection and admission processes.

– The 1964 Civil Rights Act in the U.S.A. introduced the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, and sex.

– Diversity and inclusion surfaced in the 1990s, expanding the focus beyond race and gender to include factors such as age, sexual orientation, religion, and culture.

– D.E.I. programs began to emphasize Cultural competency in the 1990s, stressing the ability to understand, appreciate, and effectively work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

– A new development was “Intersectionality”, the recognition that individuals may belong to multiple underrepresented groups, such as women, people of color, or members of the LGBTQ+ community. Intersectionality emphasizes the need to address the unique challenges of belonging to multiple marginalized groups.

– To stress the importance of a more equitable and inclusive workplace for all, some of the concept of “Belonging” is added to the abbreviation. Now the idea is D.E.I.B. programs.

In the meantime, D.E.I. became an issue in other countries. This increased interest in national culture as an important factor in understanding Diversity.

In this special, one can find, in principle, three different approaches.

The first focuses on representation and equal rights of identity groups. This approach emphasizes the rights of previously underprivileged groups and minorities based on gender, skin color, sexual preference, and religion.

The second is the focus on the real differences between the identity groups. Differences that need to be recognized to define “bridges” to enable (international) cooperation.

National Culture, defined as “the subconscious programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others”, is clearly a big influence on the perception of D.E.I. because it affects the basic values of people.As a result, there are different “narratives” for looking at D.E.I. As a result of the “subconscious influence”, most people are unaware of how “programmed” they are. They tend to see things around them in their nation-state as “self-evident, normal,” and “universal”. They cannot even imagine that people from other value settings weigh and see actions differently.

For the same reason, people think that issues developed in a specific nation-state are equally applicable in other countries with a different value mix. This is where many management theories and leadership ideas go wrong, But it is equally true for D.E.I. programs.

The third is defining measurable personality characteristics and behavioral competencies required to cope effectively with D.EI. Characteristics and Competences to be used in recruiting and selecting team members and can play a role in awareness training and self-improvement efforts.

In this special, all three approaches can be detected. It might be a nice challenge for readers to determine which categories the eight articles relate to.

Tessa Sutton (USA) & Chris Cartwright (USA) 

Connecting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belongingness with Intercultural Competence

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging space is brimming with stellar insights into how to find and root out systemic inequities. They are also often North American-centric and need clear evidence of the proposed changes being adopted more than on paper. For the deep changes we seek to take hold in our global organizations and society, we must consider the role individuals play in creating cultures of inclusion from a broader, more global perspective. In this chapter, we explore insights from an in-depth review of how organizations and individuals can learn to build inclusive organizations and simultaneously cultivate intercultural competencies.

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Pia Kähärä (Finland) and Valeria Rodríguez Brondo (Uruquay

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) paradox.: how can we respect cultural diversity and, at the same time, be in line with our DEI policies?

One of our Swedish clients, with a significant subsidiary in Russia, raised a question in a workshop about how to implement LGBTQ policy in the country when the national culture and law conflict with their diversity, equity, and inclusion policy. So, how to preach diversity, equity, and inclusion while understanding and respecting cultural differences? Are we facing a paradox? Are there ways to adapt the DEI concept to the local culture?  This is the inspiration for the article that follows.

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Prof. Mette Zølner, (Denmark

Interpretive and critical perspectives: which additional comprehension of Diversity management?


Since its emergence in the US of the 1990s, Diversity management (DM) practices have spread worldwide (Köllen, 2021). Diversity practices consist of various initiatives for enhancing organizational diversity, inclusion and equity. DM offers to empower marginalised groups, but it also carries a progressive ideal and rhetoric on ‘differences’ as being potentially enriching for organisational performance and decision making (Ely and Thomas, 2001; Risberg and Søderberg, 2008). That is, US practices of DM are carried by two arguments simultaneously: one is social justice and anti-discrimination and the other is that diversity has positive effects on the financial performance of firms (the business case) (Kelly and Dobbin, 1998; Ely and Thomas, 2001).

Yet, in recent years, diversity practices have been criticised in societal debates as well as by management scholars. For example, Dobbin and Kalev (2022) put forward that to achieve the diversity bonus organisations need to enhance a sense of belonging for all employees regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity. Dobbin and Kalev (2022) further argue that doing so necessitates a consideration for the particular historical and societal context in which organizations implement DM practices. Also, scholars from within Critical management and Organisational studies point to a lack of consideration for the influence of contingent dimensions of organizational dynamics on the outcomes of DM practices. They attribute this failure to the positivist epistemological ideal of producing de-contextualized abstract and generalisable knowledge that still prevails in DM research (Hearn and Louvrier, 2016; Holck et al., 2016; Köllen, 2021; Tatli and Özbilgin, 2012).

This raises the question of how to include contextual (ideographic) aspects in diversity management research. And a second question, just as crucial, is how contextual aspects can advance our comprehension of DM practices.

To address the question of contextuality, the present paper suggests drawing on the literature on Cross-cultural management (CCM).

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Brigitte Opel (Germany, Netherlands) 

Diversity Equity and Inclusion in an international setting.

As an intercultural consultant, I was always bewildered when people would reduce “diversity” to the balance of males and females in a group. Then I realized that also nationality or culture doesn’t cut it. There are so many different variations of diversity. There are those you can distinguish by visible factors: Gender, race, age, and abilities – unless you get fooled by your own misconceptions.

Religion is more difficult; Ethnic can also be tricky if we label too quickly and don’t know the possible differences.  And when it comes to variations by personality, the ice gets thin – as they say in the Netherlands. How do you ensure introverts feel invited to participate, just like the outspoken extroverts?  Because that is what we’re concerned with: We need to get to the point that we not only recognize the differences and learn to address them, we should see through the differences and make sure they all feel assured that they belong, they feel empowered, they’re not just invited to dance, but their dancing is natural, appreciated: is “normal”

We all want to get to that point. The business case, the benefit is no longer questioned: with empowered diverse teams, we achieve a better understanding of the market, more creative solutions, and more productive teams. Our strategies and objectives are typically quite ambitious: we want to tick all the boxes by the end of the year. In businesses, we strive to have well-balanced teams representing all those diversities and everything is going smoothly.

Elizabeth A. Tuleja, Ph.D., ACC (USA) 

Inclusive leadership. Finding solutions through cultural competence.

The world is rife with unrest as societies throughout the world attempt to reset what people think about diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Leaders of organizations strive to find the “right” program to “train” its people with grand hopes that a short seminar will make a lasting difference, only to find that people go back to their old habits.  Unfortunately, many traditional programs do the opposite of bringing people together; rather, people can feel named, blamed, and shamed. This article approaches the DEI topic with a developmental approach at the individual level that encourages a person to delve deep into who they are and why they think, believe, and behave the way they do.

Cultural competence is presented as the foundation that supports diversity – the “who” that makes up the mix of differences – and inclusion – the “what” when people feel valued and engaged versus unappreciated and ignored.  From this angle, cultural competence is the “how” that creates the capability or capacity to shift one’s cultural perspective and adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities.

This article also will explain this developmental process by examining a scientific assessment tool (IDI-Intercultural Development Inventory) that effectively helps individuals and groups identify and explore areas of cultural difference in order to navigate them more effectively. When one develops intercultural competence, one gains a more complex understanding of how to engage cultural diversity. This developmental process enables a person to grasp that people from other groups have different ways of making sense and responding to cultural differences.  A significant result is that people begin to identify differences and establish accurate commonalities to produce a shared experience through the recognition of goals, needs, interests, and motivations.

While current challenges involving diversity, equity, and inclusion abound, it is possible to find solutions through developing intercultural competence and using it to impact one’s own circle of influence.  It’s a powerful development process that yields results on a lasting level.

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Fernando Lanzer (Brasil) 

Managing DEI in Different Cultures

The evolution of the term Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is rather amusing, as it reflects the evolution of the concept in Anglophone culture. As the concept continues to change and evolve, we should consider replacing the word equity with the more accurate “equivalence.” This paper presents the reasoning behind this proposal and describes how DEI is practiced in different ways, depending on the core values of different cultures. Huib Wursten’s seven Mental Images of culture (1), based on Hofstede’s framework of Culture Dimensions (2), are used as taxonomic reference. The case is made for being aware that DEI is far from being a universal concept, and caution must be exercised when moving DEI practices from one culture to another without proper adaption. Importation without adaptation may (and often does) result in frustration.

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Huib Wursten (Netherlands

D.E.I. and Mental Images. The rules of the game.

Frequently, the discussions around D.E.I. are about recognition of the rights of previously excluded groups, mainly based on skin color, gender or/and sexual preference. The emphasis is then on their representation in the democratic process, the fight against biases and stereotyping and the reparation of past wrongdoings

A question that is mostly avoided in this approach to diversity is: how different are these groups in their values and ways of thinking?

This paper will show how country culture is a gravitational influence in shaping values and ways of thinking. It will be shown that seven culture profiles (Mental Images) can be distinguished with seven different “rules of the game” for policy making, including policies for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

In coping with global challenges like energy, climate, poverty and immigration, the seven cultural profiles and the consequent rules of the game are important because we must understand the differences to bridge these. The slogan is: we are in it together!

The seven culture profiles and rules of the game will be illustrated with the consequences for the D.E.I. approach. Because of the constraints posed by the length of a Journal paper, one country is chosen per Culture Profile as an example..

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Paulo Finuras, PhD (Portugal

Evolution and the fear of rejection – why is the need for inclusion a human universal?

The need for social acceptance has always been fundamental for individual survival. Although sometimes we have more egocentric behaviors, it seems to be part of our evolutionary design and our own genetic composition, the need to seek to follow and belong “to the group”, because belonging to one group not only provides a sense of identity, but also translates acceptance by the other. Looks like that’s how we evolved as a species.                   In this article I reflect a little on the importance of belonging to any group and the consequences of ostracization or rejection that our brain always treats as pain and suffering. And this, it seems, happens beyond cultural differences and not because of them. It has to do with our biology of social primates and has always been a means of survival that highlights the dimension of our social brain.

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Chika Miyamori (Japan) Reiko Tashiro (Japan) 

Gender inequality in the Japanese Workplace and the Influence of National Culture

Gender inequality in Japan remains a significant issue, as indicated by the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index 2021, where Japan ranks 120th globally. The country lags in political representation and economic opportunities for women. Efforts are being made to increase women’s participation in leadership roles.

A survey reveals that only 22% of respondents feel they can express their uniqueness, while 35% feel a sense of inclusion. This suggests that many individuals experience assimilation rather than inclusion. Despite nearly 70% of Japanese companies recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, the actual implementation is lacking. However, organizations that have embraced diversity report positive effects such as increased efficiency, productivity, and engagement.

Japan’s childcare leave system for men is one of the longest in the world, yet the actual uptake by men is low at 5.14%. Busy work schedules and an unsupportive workplace atmosphere hinder men from taking leave. This indicates a gap between policy and practice.

We argue that the cultural dimensions of Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance in Japanese society contribute to these challenges. Japan’s strong masculinity reinforces gender roles and societal friction, while high uncertainty avoidance hampers tolerance for diversity. To address these issues, promoting cultural self-awareness and creating an organizational culture that embraces uniqueness and inclusion are crucial.

To achieve this, the four competencies of Cultural Intelligence (CQ®) are proposed: CQ Drive (Motivation), CQ Knowledge (Cognition), CQ Strategy (Metacognition), and CQ Action (Behavior). Developing these competencies allows for effective collaboration and understanding across diverse backgrounds, fostering a culture that embraces uniqueness while bridging cultural differences.


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