In today's challenging global scenario where competition is rising every day, it is necessary for Multinational organizations to address the basic need of today's business world: diversity. Customers, employees, strategic alliances, competitors, industry norms etc.; they are all subject to changes every day. This is the reason why organizations must need to show adaptability to the change and address the diverse needs of all these stakeholders. Furthermore, while discussing MNCs, it is noticeable that one of the industries (with highest degree of diversity in its operations) is the aviation industry. Australia is one of the most culturally diverse in the world, according to a 2009 study by L. Leveson in the International Journal of Manpower. The study explored current attitudes to diversity management in 15 Australian companies. There are many legal requirements in Australia are with concerns to racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in the workplace. The Fair Work Act (2009) (as reported in Gollan 2010) specifically addresses discrimination. Where many Australian organizations along with the government and other legal authorities are taking measures to cater diversity as their major policy, Qantas Airlines is no different than them. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most active organizations who have incorporated diversity into its organizational cultures and other major processes.
One needs to understand that ability to address diversity does not necessarily means that the organizations are equal opportunity employers; but it also explains the organizations approach towards its customers and stakeholders from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds (along with gender-based differences). Founded in 1920, QANTAS is one of the building blocks of Australian Aviation Industry and its inextricable link with Australian Civil Aviation's development cannot be ignored. . As an organization, it has successfully managed to build a reputation for excellence in safety, operational reliability, engineering and maintenance and customer service
Qantas is regarded as the world's leading long distance airline and one of the strongest brands in Australia. Since it has many business units of diverse nature, located at various destinations it has developed a sustainability program that provided a sound system of procedures which supported its image of Equal Opportunity Employer. Since QANTAS' over all workforce show a great variation in its job profiles where the staff varies from flight crew to engineering, customer-services to catering and different degrees of seniority, creating a unified culture and communicating a vision that everyone could adhere to was certainly not an easy job.
Diversity in an organizations culture and practices can be a blessing as well as a menace. Where the organization has a higher degree of diverse workforce, often, it is a source of tension, division or conflict if difference is associated with exclusion, disadvantage or racism. However, it can also be a source of learning and growth that can result in improved work conditions and practices and better quality standards of service. Here arises a need for the organizations (of multinational structure) to realize how cultural, social and linguistic diversity are assets in an internationally competitive market, they will be less likely to resist working with differences and instead be open to learning new skills and knowledge that can give rise to new ways of conceptualizing and addressing issues. With the changing Australian population, the workforce composition is becoming more diverse (Dessler, Griffiths, Lloyd-Walker 2007).
QANTAS has a huge global structure with employees from at least 90 different nationalities. QANTAS views and has utilized this cultural diversity in its workforce as mode of having a competitive advantage. Its attitude towards cultural diversity aims on making QANTAS an employer of choice (Gebhardt, & Crump, 1990).
As a matter of fact, addressing and incorporating it into its organizational culture, is one of its core goals. Qantas's diversity statement is
"As an international organization with a diverse workforce and a global customer base, Qantas aims to develop an inclusive work environment accessible to all. Our employees come from a variety of backgrounds, with more than 90 different nationalities represented and 55 languages spoken. Qantas sees leveraging the diversity of our workforce (including the Board and senior management) as delivering a key competitive advantage to the business and tangible benefits to our diverse global customer base. The benefits to Qantas of embracing diversity include being regarded as an 'employer of choice' and increased employee engagement and retention. Diversity initiatives form a key plank in our corporate social responsibility work. (QANTAS)"
QANTAS has specific policies addressing racial, national as well as gender diversity. In fact, it pays special attention to gender diversity as,
Qantas now has 3 women on the Executive Committee reporting directly to the CEO. In addition, the Company Secretary is a woman.
- 4 of the 7 Directors on the Qantas Foundation Board are female
- 75% of new hires in Commercial areas were female
- QantasLink increased the number of female Pilots by 9 (QANTAS Annual Report, 2011)
Hence, cultural and gender diversity is one of the major strengths of QANTAS.
Women Representation at QANTAS
The 2007/2008 QANTAS Annual Report for the Equal Opportunity (QANTAS 2008) for Women Agency provides and answer related to the questions raised in relation to ideology of QANTAS in relation to diversity. As per this report, the QANTAS diversity Council is responsible for ensuring that this burning issue of gender discrimination is duly addressed. The Council has been given all the required power as it comprises of senior executives and reports directly to the Executive Committee; it has a reasonable influence on the decisions of upper management. The diversity strategy of QANTAS regarding its workforce is rather comprehensive. Areas such as female representation in the QANTAS Group, women in non-traditional occupations, countries of origin, promotions and transfers, training and development, work organization and support initiatives, has considerable impact on the overall organizational culture and vision.
QANTAS has issued various annual sustainability reports regarding diversity in its workforce. These reports connect diversity to strategic business issues, showing that QANTAS has adopted a business case approach to diversity management. It has successfully managed to establish a perspective in a general public that QANTAS focuses on the strengths that its female staff has and believes to accrue from making the most of the abilities and possibilities of the women it employs (Cassell 2000). Since the needs of female staff differ greatly to the male workforce, this is the reason why it has paid special attention to pay equity, flexible work arrangements, an increase in paid and parental leaves, employer sponsored childcare, and employee assistance programs.
Since QANTAS has shown it commitment to gender diversity, its sustainability reports provide a logical evidence that it has now expanded diversity right across its organization and also that there is a considerable increase in the activities facilitating women in all parts of the organization. Furthermore, it is interesting to observe that there hasn't been a considerable women representation at QANTAS when it comes to Executive Committee Level. Other than 2000 annual report where the chairman of the group was a woman i.e. Margaret Jackson, one cannot find a substantial women representation at higher level. In this respect, the argument by Cassell (2000) that the business case provides a way for women managers to legitimately promote their unique talents seems appropriate. Through its sustainability reports, QANTAS has managed to recognize the shortage of Female Executive Managers yet avoiding the equal opportunity controversy. Future gender diversity strategies for QANTAS include development and training programs for women, increasing nominations of women to the Executive Council and the use of HRIS to identify female talent for women in senior roles (Dessler. et al. 2007).
If we perform an analysis of diversity highlights from year 2008 till year 2010, one could observe that the efforts to establish female networking and development forums- Chief Executive Women, Women on Boards, My Mentor, and Making Connections lead to women's representation in the executive committee, have been quite aggressive. Due to efforts that started in 2008, QantasLink increased its number of female Captains from 6 to 13 and Jetstar increased the number of female pilots from 15 to 22. Also, Females represented 75% of the total 2010 Graduate intake, in comparison to 43% female Graduates for the 2009 intake (QANTAS, 2010). Also, the creation of QANTAS School in 2009 showed the statistics of women participation by 27% and 43% in summer and winter engineering programmes respectively (QANTAS, 2010, p. 4). At the later stage, The Women @ Qantas Development Program was expanded globally to include the women at different locations, in this regime.
There were various other measures taken that showed QANTAS' commitment towards facilitating its female staff to its fullest. Some of these programms were Women representation in Harvard Leadership Program, Opening of the 3rd Joey Club child-care facility in Brisbane, Amendments to the Carer's Leave policy to enable ease of application, increased carer's leave entitlements.…