Understanding Diversity Management
Diversity management (DM) has been described as a new organizational paradigm (Gilbert et al 1999). Visit the website of any major UK or North American private or public sector organization and we are confi dent that you will fi nd a stated claim or at least stated intention to value, embrace or celebrate workforce diversity. Many organizations in the UK signal their commitment to diversity by joining national campaigns such as the Employers Forum on Age, the Employers Forum on Disability, Opportunity Now (gender equality organization), Race for Opportunity (race equality organization) or Stonewall (lesbian and gay campaign organization). Some proudly state how they have won awards for their diversity initiatives from these ‘issue-focused’ campaigns, but at the same time many organizations also clearly position their diversity policy within a broader, more inclusive agenda. That is, many organizations state that for them diversity is not ‘simply’ about gender, race/ethnicity, disability and so on, but about respect for individuals and their needs. Why are organizations so enthusiastic about diversity? It is striking that whilst a growing number of organizations’ diversity statements will be found in the corporate social responsibility section of their website, most imply that workforce diversity is not only a moral issue, but critical to their success and future sustainability. Some go so far as to talk about ‘leveraging’ workforce diversity for the benefi t of the business. In fact, the idea of diversity as critical to business success has permeated corporate images and advertising via slogans such as ‘everyone is welcome at Tesco’ (the largest UK retailer) or ‘HSBC, the world’s local bank’. Further, many organizations are proclaiming that their commitment to diversity starts at the very top of the organization, implying that it has not just come about as a reactive response to external pressures, such as anti-discrimination legislation, or internal staff grievances and complaints. In the 2000s, organizations typically see themselves as having voluntarily developed diversity policy.