Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
2016 started very unpleasantly, thanks to some exceptionally offensive social media posts. What is painfully obvious to me, is that we haven’t done nearly enough to ensure integration. There has been very little intervention in terms of breaking down the structural and psychological barriers so strategically entrenched during apartheid. Why aren’t we being taught to embrace the perspectives of different cultures? If we can’t appreciate our differences, how can hope for consideration and respect?
I did a wonderful psychology course last year. I found the sections on perception and cultural values particularly worthwhile. The former dealt with stereotyping and common biases, and the latter discussed cultural value differences in the context of a number of frameworks.
Values are not necessarily right or wrong, simply different, but they are important, because they are basic convictions and they colour perspective.
Take for instance cultural differences in respect of time orientation as an example. Cultures differ. Some focus more on the past, some focus on the present and others are future oriented. Traditionally, Africans are guided by historical practices and traditions (ancestral), whilst western societies tend to be future focused, seldom living in the now (because they believe that they can control the future by intervention) and Eastern cultures, being relatively fatalistic (in the sense that they believe what will be will be, regardless of what they do), tend to focus on the present. Isn’t it interesting to note, that before we even begin engaging, we are potentially focused in different directions?
The GLOBE study, which was conducted in 61 countries with 18000 respondents, looked at eight dimensions of cultural differences, namely uncertainty avoidance, power distance, future orientation, gender egalitarianism, individualism/collectivism, assertiveness, human orientation and performance orientation.
Researchers on the South African leg of the study, Booysen et al, compared 261 white and black managers in 3 retail banks across the eight dimensions, and found significant differences on seven of these dimensions. I found this quite astonishing!
It made me realise that we have a collective responsibility to learn more about each other, and, where possible, to actively teach others tolerance.
Let’s use our circles of influence, teach our children and train our staff to respect differences and to embrace other perspectives. Let’s actively build a better society for all.
We really cannot keep doing doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It’s foolishness.