Author and Photographer
Mill Valley, United States
“If businesses celebrate cultures, people will fall in love with the companies they work for. Diversity will be made tangible and ignite creative thinking.”
It is 2112. Large and small companies work with employees, suppliers, partners, consultants, collaborators, clients, customers and communities all over the world.
Most work is conducted electronically but offices have become crucial for maintaining community and culture. Corridors are vivid with ethnic art. Buildings incorporate traditional architecture and colors. Foods in cafeterias represent many countries. Weekend events showcase dance, theater, films, festivals and music from around the globe.
One hundred years ago, office environments ranged from “ethnically-neutral contemporary” to “start-up-style secondhand.” How did 2112’s workplaces become vibrant showcases of diverse cultural heritage?
One hundred years ago in 2012, a poor mother in rural Guatemala, like women everywhere, dreamed of a better life for her children. She spent hours at her loom to earn school fees for her daughter. The day her educated daughter accepted a job in the city, her mother wept. Her daughter had abandoned weaving; the ancestors had been betrayed. This bittersweet experience was repeated in countries as far-flung as Bolivia, India and South Africa.
“Why force a choice between jobs and traditions?” a wise CEO reflected. “If businesses celebrate cultures, people will fall in love with the companies they work for and global recruitment will be easier. Diversity will be made tangible and ignite creative thinking. New products will reflect local customers’ cultures.”
Experiments began. Company cafeterias offered saag paneer, enchiladas and couscous. Employees wore traditional ethnic clothing at least once a week. Riding in elevators, visitors heard panpipes, sitars and djembe drums.
More and more companies joined in. Employees taught craft workshops in the evenings. Company stores stocked textiles from Peru, Laos and Thailand, plus baskets woven by North American Indians and Zulus. That was the beginning.
Today, temples and palaces influence the architecture of office buildings. Grounds are landscaped with carnations from Turkey and tulips from Holland. Hallways display folk art from around the world. Office rugs are hand-woven in India, Nepal and Iran.
Residents of Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest do environmental consulting. African tribal chiefs mentor managers about the kind of leadership that works in their societies.
Children in company daycare centers fly kites from Eritrea, learn mask dances from Gambia, and play with Ndebele dolls. An Argentine author wrote the story most kids like best; the youngsters’ favorite dramas are from Indonesia. Childcare centers are multilingual: English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. Boys and girls have electronic pen pals in daycare centers across the world.
On weekends, company auditoriums host foreign film screenings, international authors’ readings, festivals, markets, and ethnic dance competitions. Takraw tournaments and Karate matches occur in companies’ fitness centers.
Businesses encourage their employees to take volunteer vacations. This year, one company’s employees get discounts to fly to Kansas, Kazakhstan, Kentucky, Kenya, Kiribati, Korea, Kuwait or Kyrgyzstan (next year, they’ll visit the L’s).
People understand and respect each other.
There is world peace.
Paola Gianturco Bio:
Photojournalist Paola Gianturco has documented women’s lives in 55 countries. Her fifth book will be released in October 2012. Her images have been exhibited at the United Nations/NYC, the U.S. Senate, UNESCO Headquarters/Paris, The Field Museum/Chicago, The Norton Simon Museum/Pasadena, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival/ Washington D.C. plus The International Museum of Women and Museum of the African Diaspora/San Francisco. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN and NPR. Her pictures have been published in Marie Clarie, Harper's Bazaar, The New York Times and The Washington Post.