Managing diversity in Chinese
and Indian organizations:
a qualitative study
Fang Lee Cooke
Department of Management, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and
Debi S. Saini
Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India
Purpose – This paper aims to investigate diversity management (DM) practices in China and India
by analyzing formal DM policy (if one exists) adopted by the company and informal DM practices
adopted by managers. It also aims to discuss the appropriateness of the US-originated notion of, and
approach to, managing diversity in the Indian and Chinese contexts by exploring how local managers
make sense of diversity and manage it in a pragmatic way.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors adopted a qualitative approach. In particular,
through a semi-structured interview design, qualitative data were collected from 16 Chinese and
Indian middle and senior managers and four human resources (HR) director of regional headquarters
of foreign multinational ﬁrms. The data were supplemented by secondary data from a wide range of
sources, including government reports and media coverage to extend contextual understanding.
Findings – The paper reveals that most Chinese organizations do not see DM as an issue. Where
exists, its focus is on conﬂict avoidance rather than value-addition to the business. In contrast,
managing diversity in India is of greater signiﬁcance for ﬁrms, both legally and ﬁnancially. Compared
with their Chinese counterparts, the Indian managers are much more familiar with the notion of
diversity. They are more informed and articulate about diversity issues in their country and
organization. DM as a softer approach to human resource management (HRM) has yet to feature as an
espoused HR strategy in Chinese and Indian ﬁrms.
Research limitations/implications – The paper shows that the starting point and the process of
DM in the Chinese and Indian contexts are different from that in the Western contexts. Institutional
contexts and cultural traditions are essential to understanding DM issues and likely solutions. Small
sample size in the study may limit the generalization of the ﬁndings.
Practical implications – The paper has a number of implications for Western multinational
corporations that have operations in China and India and intend to adopt a global HR strategy and roll
out their DM initiatives to subsidiaries in different parts of the world. It also has implications for
Chinese and Indian owned multinational companies operating in the western contexts.
Social implications – Sources of discrimination and inequality at both macro and micro levels were
identiﬁed in China and India. The paper also highlights areas for DM to improve leadership skills and
organizational performance. The ﬁndings may inform policy making and the formulation of
organizational strategy, contributing to the elimination of inequality and enhancing employee
commitment and productivity.
Originality/value – The paper ﬁlls a gap in the DM literature on China and India through a
comparative lens. It highlights the contextual differences in political, economic, cultural and social
aspects between China and India and between these two and the Western contexts, including the USA
and the UK, where the concept of DM as part of the strategic HRM was originated and popularized.
Keywords Diversity management, Human resource management, China, India, Quality assessment
Paper type Research paper
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Journal of Chinese Human Resource
Vol. 3 No. 1, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited