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New book Work & Worship: minority religions in the workforce

AUT Professor of Diversity’s new book Work & Worship to help businesses respond to minority religions in the workforce

A new book written by AUT Professor of Diversity Dr Edwina Pio offers insights and advice to organisations with minority religions in their workforces.

Work & Worship offers a range of possibilities to the issues organisations contend with when dealing with a diverse workforce, in particular a workforce whose religion may be different from the norms of Western Christianity and an Anglo-centric worldview.”

Dr Pio says that while many organisations have taken steps towards greater inclusiveness for diversity in gender, there is still a very strong sacred and secular divide, which means that religion gets left out of diversity policies in organisations.

“The book gets organisations to ask some basic questions such as: Do we have a policy on diversity? How is it defined? Does it include religion? Should policy extend to dress code and food?”

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy spoke at the Work & Worship book launch and has commended Dr Pio’s personal and academic contribution to fostering harmonious relations.

Dr Pio drew on focus groups with more than 200 people and information from the 2013 Census for Work & Worship. The book focuses on five minority religions in New Zealand: Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Indian Christians and Zoroastrians.

In the 2013 Census, 46,148 people identified as Muslims, 19,191 as Sikhs, 89,919 as Hindus and 24,585 Indian Christians, while 1.2 million New Zealanders identify with no religion.

“The extensive and robust research with both employees and employers indicates that visible expressions of religious diversity such as wearing a burkha or growing a beard, may mean underemployment or slow career progression for such individuals.”

“Adherence of one’s personal faith could mean the visible expression of one’s religion in the workplace whether it is through the wearing of the veil, the growing of a beard, the carrying of a kirpan (dagger), a computer screen which shows a god with the head of an elephant, or the display of a goddess with many arms.”

Dr Pio said the findings showed a need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of religious diversity here.

“The findings clearly indicate the need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of religious diversity in the workplace, in particular a world of cooperation, good faith and respect where organisations craft and implement policies and practices acknowledging the porosity between the sacred and secular.”

Work & Worship presents the privileges and obligations of working with a diverse workforce which organisations worldwide as well as in New Zealand have to contend with. What is shared by all these religious groups is a commitment to New Zealand and to live and work in a manner that respects the country, while also adhering to one’s personal faith.”

EEO Trust Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says the book is important reading for employers, allowing them to understand the business benefits of workers who feel supported in their worship.

“In an increasingly diverse society our workplaces are being called on to accommodate the varied beliefs and practices of their employees. Professor Edwina Pio’s book Work & Worship uses real case studies and contemporary research to offer practical advice on how to support religious adherence in the work environment.”

Edwina Pio is the first Professor of Diversity in New Zealand. She is based in the Management department at AUT University’s Business and Law School. Her newest book Work & Worship investigates religious diversity and suggests how business leaders can script success in their policies and practices by taking into account the growing workforce of minority religions in their organisations.


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