Strategic themes within HRM imply an organisational commitment towards the full deployment of all employees in order to meet business goals and objectives. The rhetoric of equality within HRM has been challenged but these discussions have typically focused on gender issues, ignoring ethnicity, culture and religion. Individuals' social group cultures and other cultural and religious aspects have been largely absent in HR literature. By examining ethnic minority women's struggles to fit into white Western organisations, this article seeks to provide a discussion on an area where limited research has been conducted. Our emphasis is placed on organisational expectations in relation to ethnic minority women's demonstrated behaviours and appearance, the latter being expressed through dressing, hairstyles and mannerisms. The empirical data show that ethnic minority women are often required to fit into the existing culture if they want to penetrate influential networks or be given opportunities for career development and advancement. Extending the critique of others who argue that organisations must move away from the existing male-dominant culture rather than expecting women to move towards it, we contend that management must also acknowledge and better understand religious and cultural differences instead of requiring ethnic minority women to fit into a narrow mono-culture. The article concludes with a discussion of human resource implications for organisations engaged in diversity management. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.