chapter  3
20 Pages

The Contexts of Diversity Management

The purpose of this chapter is to consider the political, economic, social and legal contexts within which organizations develop and implement diversity management (DM) policies. These broad contexts are important for understanding the book’s empirical research. Considerable change has occurred over the last 30 years or so, and the evolving context poses many challenges for organizations and policy-makers in the equality and diversity fi eld. This chapter briefl y outlines the USA context and focuses more specifi cally on the UK. This is of course no coincidence. As shown in Chapter 1, the USA is the birthplace of DM, and the UK, where DM has been widely adopted as a policy paradigm, is the location of the book’s empirical research. But more than this, the USA and the UK share much in common as liberal societies with laissez faire economies and relatively unregulated labour markets, providing a relatively unrestricted environment for the emergence of new social patterns and novel ways of organizing work (Hakim 2000). Indeed, in relation to the specifi c topic of this book-DM-it is argued that the ‘conservative, right-wing agenda of the 1980s and early 1990s in the UK and USA provided a political environment in which a deregulated, voluntarist, diversity approach could fl ourish’ (Noon and Ogbonna 2001: 4). In order to set the context for the empirical research presented in subsequent chapters, this chapter provides a summary overview, rather than in-depth analysis, of what we see as critical contextual issues for our research. It is also beyond the scope of this chapter to offer any detailed explanation of the different employment patterns outlined (see Glover and Kirton 2006 and Kirton and Greene 2005a for more on this aspect). The fundamental premise of the chapter is that the organizational-level policy-making that our research explores cannot be understood without reference to the key elements of the external contexts impacting upon organizations’ functions, operations and policy-making. There is so much that could be said about the context, but in line with our research approach as outlined in Chapter 1, the contents of this chapter refl ect the fact that the book is written from an industrial relations perspective, and we are therefore interested in the

labour market, the employment relationship and the strategies and actions of key actors, including the state, employers and trade unions.