This article contributes to critical diversity management studies by exploring how human resources professionals do not see that the diversity measures they initiate can contribute to the reproduction of inequalities. We argue that framing such practices as benevolent obscures the fact that they are discriminatory acts. Drawing on the concept of benevolent discrimination, we conceptualise it along three dimensions: (1) a well-intended effort to address discrimination within (2) a social relationship that constructs the others as inferior and in need of help, which is granted with (3) the expectation that they will accommodate into the existing hierarchical order. Benevolent discrimination is a subtle and structural form of discrimination that is difficult to see for those performing it, because it frames their action as positive, in solidarity with the (inferior) other who is helped, and within a hierarchical order that is taken for granted. We develop the concept of benevolent discrimination building on an in-depth qualitative case study of a Swedish organisation that is believed to be exemplary in its engagement in diversity management initiatives. The organisation is however swayed by an inequality regime based on the intersection of class and ethnicity. We argue that it is precisely because human resources professionals frame their actions as acts of benevolence that they cannot see how they take part in organisational discrimination.
Due to the fact that immigration in Denmark is a more recent phenomenon, diversity management has had a much shorter history in politics as well as in business, and has not yet been institutionalized to the same degree as in for example North America, from where the concept originates. When crossing the Atlantic, the concept of diversity management merged with Danish universal welfare logics that offer a particular view on equality as sameness together with solidarity through corporate social responsibility. Drawing on 94 employee narratives about difference in a Danish workplace renowned for its diversity work, this article argues that a translation of the original American concept has taken place that turns diversity management into an ambiguous corporate activity when practised through Danish welfare logics. Paradoxically, corporate practices of social responsibility aimed at fostering equal opportunities obstruct successful labour-market integration, as differences are assimilated and marginalized rather than valued and respected. Economic redistribution is thus at the cost of recognition of difference imbued in the business case of diversity. In this article we explore how difference can be reintroduced into the Danish welfare logics to balance the simultaneous need for redistribution and recognition of difference, which goes through aligning diversity management with critical scholarship by means of a norm-critical approach.
This article applies classical concepts of organizational structure and extends them to contemporary challenges of diversity to explore why unequal opportunity structures persist in an organization despite its commitment to diversity and employing highly skilled ethnic minority employees. Based on a study of the team-based municipal center, CityBiz, the article inquires as to how inequality is embedded in two structural features: First, differentiation of roles accelerates in response to continuous change, which results in similar workers being attracted to collaborate with one another, which generates inequality. Second, inequality is sustained by inadequate integration methods that merge a formal-informal hierarchy, which results in peer competition and majority elites. The structural approach to organizational diversity developed in this article nuances current research on diversity predominantly concerned with employee experiences of inequality in an organizational structural landscape perceived as fixed and stable. This study offers a dynamic view of organizational structure based on how it is experienced, navigated and reshaped by employees of different ethnicities. Linking micro-interactions to structural triggers and outcomes point to situated caveats about inequalities ingrained in the organizational structural setup. Tapping into employees' sentiments and interactions furthermore gives the possibility to mobilize collective change in favor of equal opportunities.
Purpose:We examine the relationship between the identity and diversity literatures and discuss how a better understanding of the theoretical connections between the two informs both diversity research and diversity management practices. Design/methodology/approach: Literature review followed by a discussion of the theoretical and practical consequences of connecting the identity and diversity literatures. Findings: We inform future research in three ways. First, by showing how definitions of identity influence diversity theorizing in specific ways. Second, we explore how such definitions entail distinct foci regarding how diversity should be analyzed and interventions actioned. Third, we discuss how theoretical coherence between definitions of identity and diversity perspectives -as well as knowledge about a perspective's advantages and limitationsis crucial for successful diversity management research and practice. Research limitations/implications: We argue for a better understanding of differences, overlaps and limits of different identity perspectives, and for a stronger engagement with practice. Practical implications: Our work can encourage policy makers, diversity and HR managers to question their own practices and assumptions leading to more theoretical informed diversity management practices. Originality/value: The theoretical connections between identity and diversity literature have so far not been reviewed systematically. Our work foregrounds how important it is for diversity scholars to consider identity underpinnings of diversity research to help further develop the field within and beyond the three streams we discuss.
In this editorial, we plea for radicalizing diversity research by re‐engaging with the notion of class. We argue that theories of class, which are today seldom used in critical diversity research, have the potential to conceptualize the relationship between difference and power in ways that go beyond the current focus on equality within capitalist organizations. Theories of class radicalize diversity research by providing a conceptual vocabulary to ground the critique of diversity in the critique of capitalism. To highlight this potential, we first reconstruct the ideological historical context of the 1980s in which diversity research emerged, re‐embedding it in a broader political project to restructure the economy, work and society as a whole. We then present four main uses of the concept of class in management and organization studies and the theoretical traditions that underpin them. We go on to introduce the four contributions to this Special Section, illustrating how class, variously understood, can inform critical understandings of diversity. We conclude by leveraging class within four strategies for more radical diversity scholarship: classing workers, occupations, and workplaces; classing diversity; classing meritocracy; and classing struggles for social justice.
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