Brown Bag lecture – diversity management in Africa

Yue Li

Norma Juma, professor of strategic management, gave a lecture about diversity management in Africa at the International House Sept. 25. Washburn students, faculty and auditors attended this lecture.

Juma first showed pictures of clothes in various styles and designs. It matters where the clothes and designs come from, because it is a celebration of identities. Then she talked about different styles of wedding ceremonies.

In Africa, people use social identity to enable individuals, how they are identified and how it relates to their communities. In the lecture, Juma focused on explaining ascribed identity and attained social identity.

Ascribed identities are inherently or deeply rooted in an individual such as gender and race. Attained social identities are shared beliefs and values that are influenced by experiences and environment, like education.

African countries are some of the most diverse in the world. In Kenya, there are more than 42 distinct languages used every day. Many tribes have their own language. Each tribe has distinct immigration patterns.

“They have very distinct traditions in terms of main life events, from the birth of a child, marriage rituals, death and death rituals, to belief systems and religions,” said Juma. “So if you look at all those levels of diversity, it’s not surprising that Africa, when it comes to diversity, is the most diverse continent.”

Juma also talked about gender, disability, age, race, HIV status, political and religious beliefs in Africa along with some examples.

This lecture helps the audience gain more knowledge about diversity in Africa and understand it from a comparative perspective. It is not only beneficial for the students and faculty, but also the community.

“I think it helps students to understand different cultures and the concept of diversity,” said Juma. “Understanding the different dimensions of diversity is very important because it helps us be informed about our decisions. We want to create a world that is inclusive. Having an inclusive world helps all of us to do better. It improves business decisions, it improves the way we formulate policies. We understand our markets better when we include everybody in the conversation.”

The International Program strives to include Brown Bag lecture topics that are as culturally diverse as possible.

“We always look for different topics to cover different geographic areas and also different subject matters,” said Baili Zhang, Director of the International Program. “There is really no predefined boundary about what we want to talk about. Basically, we want to reach far and deep. Just look for interesting topics about interesting locations, particularly the locations and topics that we don’t normally hear much about… In a word, we want to bring as many varieties of topics and regions to the forum.”

The topics of upcoming Brown Bag lectures include different climates, cultures and health care, climate change and a summer project in Malaysia.

Edited by Jackson Woods, Adam White, Jessica Galvin