A Multi-Layered Exploration of the Diversity Management Field: Diversity Discourses, Practices and Practitioners in the UK
16 Pages Posted: 20 May 2011
Date Written: June 2011
This paper presents a multi-layered exploration of the diversity management field in the UK. In doing so, it aims to address two problematic tendencies in the current diversity research: the focus on single-level explorations, and the polarization between critical and mainstream approaches. Using Bourdieu's concept of field, I develop a theoretical framework that conceptualizes the field of diversity management in three constituents: diversity discourse, diversity practice and diversity practitioners. The framework is used to analyse empirical evidence generated through semi-structured interviews with 19 diversity managers of large private-sector companies. This study reveals the presence of a gap between the diversity discourse and practice, and the absence of any standard set of qualifications and skills requirement for practitioners. The findings demonstrate the twofold role of discourse in drawing the boundaries of the diversity management field. First, it is instrumental in constructing diversity management as distinct from equal opportunities. Second, the use discourse functions as a mechanism to control the entry of practitioners into this field, which otherwise has low entry barriers. The paper offers a contribution to management research in general and equality and diversity research in particular through its original use of Bourdieuan sociology in an empirical study.
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