A Research Companion
Edited by Mustafa F. Özbiligin
Chapter 5: Positioning Workplace Diversity: Critical Aspects for Theory
5. Positioning workplace diversity: critical aspects for theory Judith K. Pringle INTRODUCTION Workplace diversity theorising has been characterised by an incomplete and partial view. The atheoretical nature of workplace diversity (Pringle et al., 2006) has dogged the field with few explanations or even frameworks that allow for a comprehensive view inclusive of national locale, organisation and individuals. The focus has been on organisations, and the relational dynamics within them. The focus on the organisational level has had the unintended consequence of creating the appearance of a unified diversity discourse. As Jones et al. (2000) pointed out, what is framed as ‘global’ diversity discourse is more likely to arise from the experiences of workplace dynamics in large organisations from Western countries positioned at the ‘centre’ of academic discourse namely the United States (US) and to a lesser extent Britain. Local scholars have gone so far as to suggest that the term ‘managing diversity’ is a US term (Jones and Stablein, 2006) that advances a ‘globalising capitalist economy’ (Humphries and Grice, 1995). Thus any broader discussion of workplace diversity has emphasised a global commonality framed within an economic imperative signified by the ‘business case’. The business case places the rationale for implementing diversity in the workplace on economic outcomes and omits consideration of equity arguments or a redistribution of power as central to organisational change. At first the business case was positioned as oppositional to equal opportunity or affirmative action organisational initiatives (Dickens, 1999) that acted as a mechanism to create distance...
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