Sunday, June 27, 2010

international business management: White guys wanted

I heard a small program on China on the radio (NPR) during a recent drive back from work. Later that night, I goggled and read with fascination the article in The Atlantic "Rent A White Guy: Confessions of a Fake Businessman from Beijing" .

In the article, Mitch Moxley, a freelance writer who lives in Beijing, discovers that merely being a White Guy in China, who can dress well in a suite qualifies him to opportunities including being paid to be a fake American businessman.

Many of us in the global workforce know anecdotally that being American, and white is certainly an big pre-qualifier, especially while being considered for certain opportunities. The article went on to reinforce that view.

The article reminded me of many anecdotes from the past, including a (white) British colleague proudly proclaiming how he got a cool tax-free-six-figure consulting gig as a system administrator for a client in the middle-east because: the client wanted to see a “few white guys” onsite even though most of the actual sysadmin work was being done offshore in India.

We would like to think that the world is flattening - even this phrase has a flat ring to it now – and global opportunities are there for the taking, especially for those globally mobile. However, when it comes to international business, Moxley demonstrates that there is an element of reverse-racism that hard to shed.

Ps: the opinions and anecdotes in this blog are just that: personal observations from the trenches. Nothing more.

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