Cultural Intelligence: New Challenge for Accounting Academics

When talking about accounting, what usually comes to mind is money, numbers, and mathematical formulas. It’s not entirely wrong, but often people overlook the cultural aspects which also play an integral role in the work of an accountant, as well as an academic in the accounting field. Seeing the conditions around which globalization has had a huge impact on global business and education, nowadays more and more international students are enrolling in universities.

It is undeniable that universities are a clear example of a salad bowl, a phenomenon where a place houses a variety of distinct and unique cultures. From students, academic staff, research partners, to seminar audiences, all with a high level of cultural diversity.

Dr. Meredith Tharapos, CA., CPA, Deputy Head of Accounting Department, UG Program Manager, and Senior Lecturer School of Accounting, Information System and Supply Chain, College of Business from RMIT University in Australia stated that we are in a critical situation to have critical intelligence (CQ), especially for academics in the accounting field.

In a seminar which was held by Master of Accounting BINUS Graduate Program and BINUS University Undergraduate Accounting Study Program along with RMIT University Melbourne titled “Are Accounting Academics Culturally Intelligent?” on Wednesday (8/7), she explained the research which she developed regarding the value of cultural intelligence of accounting academics in Australia.

The Potential of Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity brings both positive and negative impacts on the teaching and learning process. The advantage of cultural diversity is that it allows for more mature discussions to take place due to the variety of inputs from people with different perspectives. This is important, considering the fact that the education world is very broad, including the accounting field. Meredith stated that cultural diversity has a significant role for academics, for example in conducting collaborations.

Even so, cultural diversity brings a new challenge for academics, creating conflict due to differences in culture, methodology, expectations, language, and capabilities. This can result in a lack of synergy between groups, especially in collaborations and co-operations. As stated by Meredith: “All of these can lead to fantastic conversations during class, but it can create conflicts, it can marginalize students, and it can create all sorts of challenges.”

The Importance of Cultural Intelligence

From the problems that arise due to cultural differences, it has become a major responsibility for academics such as lecturers and staff to hone cultural intelligence. Some academics may feel comfortable adapting to different cultures, but there are still a lot of accounting academics that are struggling to face the challenges of cultural diversity.

This is where cultural intelligence plays a vital role, which is to provide guidance for academics to remain productive despite having strong cultural differences. Cultural intelligence itself is defined as an individual’s ability to work effectively in diverse cultural situations. There are four main components in cultural intelligence that are connected to each other.

Metacognitive CQ is an individual’s ability to analyze mindset, understand, and find solutions for conflicts that arise from cultural diversity. Cognitive CQ covers an individual’s knowledge and experience of other cultures. Meanwhile, motivational CQ is one’s desire to adapt in the midst of cultural differences. Lastly, behavioral CQ is one’s ability to adapt and change attitudes towards people from a variety of cultures.

Considering the fact that the Accounting field has always been excellent and in high demand by international students, this makes Accounting academics the right research object for assessing cultural intelligence. As Meredith states: “A significant part of our role involves not only dealing with our international classrooms domestically, but we also go to very different cultures and tech transnationally.”

The Impact of International Experience on Cultural Intelligence

From the research that has been conducted by Meredith, it can be concluded that the level of cultural intelligence of Accounting academics is relatively low compared to other professional cohorts, even though it is still above the standards. Other than that, Meredith also found another variable that proved to be influential in one’s cultural intelligence.

The survey result of 253 respondents that worked as academics in the Accounting field in Australia proves that academics that have taught in Southeast Asia have higher cultural intelligence compared to other academics that have only taught students that come from English speaking countries. Likewise, with individuals who have experienced living abroad for more than 12 months, they tend to have high cultural intelligence.

This becomes the answer that cultural intelligence can be developed and influenced by exposure to foreign cultures that are contrary to the existing culture that has been adopted, not by the distance of the country. Therefore, student exchange and extensive study programs abroad become a valuable curriculum for Accounting students to hone their cultural intelligence.