Associate Professor Nasima Carrim of the University of Pretoria (UP) Department of Human Resource Management was awarded seed funding by the 2021 Alliance for African Partnership’s (AAP) Transforming Institutions Strategic Programme to conduct research into diversity management.
The AAP was founded by Michigan State University (MSU) in collaboration with African colleagues, and is a consortium of MSU, 10 leading African universities and a network of African research institutes.
“The AAP award provides me with an opportunity to collaborate with international and African scholars,” Prof Carrim said. “I plan to use the seed funding to explore sexual harassment on the UP campus, and to engage in activities that will create awareness around both the issue and how students and staff who are victims of sexual harassment can find recourse.”
Reflecting on what led her to conduct research on diversity management, she said: “People were not comfortable discussing sensitive issues around diversity topics, and I felt that a lot of injustice was done to the field. So I decided to conduct research in this area to highlight pertinent issues that plague marginalised individuals in the workplace.
“I explore topics that are sensitive, and that people are afraid of exploring. For me, research is about bringing things out in the open so that we can engage in discussions about sensitive topics in a mature manner.”
Prof Carrim credits her family with giving her the chance to pursue interests that were generally reserved for men. “I grew up in a small community in Brits, in a so-called Indian area. My upbringing was traditional in certain aspects – I was not allowed to date, or go to clubs and parties – but also liberal and progressive in other aspects: I was one of the very few Indian females from my community to pursue a tertiary education. My father always encouraged me to get involved in his business and taught me how to run it, from negotiating with suppliers to handling day-to-day administrative activities.”
Through her research, Prof Carrim hopes to make a difference. “I want people to gain a deeper understanding of one another, and to understand that our differences make us unique, but that our similarities are what bind us as humans. There have to be differences, so that we can come up with diverse solutions to problems in our societies, workplaces, and the global village, otherwise we will stagnate and become obsolete. We also need to take the human element into account when taking decisions and be more flexible in our dealings with people.”
In future, she hopes to create awareness and understanding of oneself and others, so that we become more inclusive in our dealings with diverse people. “I am hoping that the messages of fairness, equality, justice and inclusivity filters across organisations and eventually into people’s homes and societies, where we can face our biases and someday overcome our ‘isms’. It’s a long journey, but at least I have made a start and I’m hoping that in the future there will be more champions to take on the cause.”