|Title||Contextualising diversity management: challenging the effectiveness of the business case|
This PhD challenges, through the discussion of eleven publications, the effectiveness of the employer-led ‘business case’ to achieving greater equality and diversity in organisations and highlights the need for a systemic and contextual approach through inclusion of employee voice. The absence of employee participation in building diversity strategies leads to inconsistent initiatives whose relevance and impact are not shaped or
These publications, mainly based on qualitative case-study research, discuss diversity management from a sectoral or organisational perspective, focusing on ‘good practice’ analysis, whilst also critiquing this concept. The earlier publications show that the structural and cultural barriers to female employment in the male-dominated construction sector impact the participation of other disadvantaged groups. They also discuss the impact of social class and the effectiveness of inclusion strategies for disabled workers, as well as the positive influence of collective employee voice on conflict management in organisations. The later publications look at diversity management from a management perspective; within specific sectoral contexts, mostly male-dominated (e.g. science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). The sectoral analysis highlights the importance of employment context (sector, occupation, organisation, job role) in the understanding and implementation of equality and diversity.
The publications show the limitations of employer-led diversity management initiatives, which fail to break down entrenched structural and cultural barriers. These barriers are shaped by organisational expectations of employees’ availability in terms of working time and place, and adaptability to set ways of working. The business case approach does not change these expectations, and leads to a narrow interpretation of diversity and target populations, dominance of employer voice in discourse and actions, lack of contextualised multi-level implementation of diversity measures, the singularity of business benefit as driver and lack of diversity monitoring to support decision making, therefore explaining the lack of progress in equality and diversity.
Employee participation is weak in terms of depth and scope, with evidence only of topdown communication. Where collective employee participation is increased, diversity management is improved through enhanced contextualisation and more systemic implementation, reducing barriers to equality and diversity.