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Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations / Edition 1

Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations / Edition 1

by Marilyn J. Davidson, Sandra L. Fielden


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471499718
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 10/31/2003
Series: Wiley Handbooks in Work & Organizational Psychology Series , #1
Pages: 434
Product dimensions: 6.91(w) x 9.98(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

Marilyn Davidson is Professor of Managerial Psychology in the Manchester School of Management, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. She is author/co-author of 14 books on 'women at work', 'women in management' and 'occupational stress'. Three of her most recent books are 'Shattering the Glass Ceiling - The Woman Manager', Women In Management: Current Research Issues Volume II' and 'The Black and Ethnic Minority Woman Manager - Cracking the Concrete Ceiling' (which was shortlisted for the Best Management Book of the Year). She has been employed as a research consultant for numerous organizations and Government bodies, is a Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Royal Society of Arts.

Sandra Fielden is the Director of the Centre for Business Psychology, with interests in gender, diversity, equal opportunities, occupational stress, unemployment, small business success, psychological contract and organizational change. The Centre is involved in applied research and consultancy activities within the public and private sector, including European funded research into gender issues and economic growth. Sandra has written a number of book chapters relating to the position of woman managers and stress, and her first book (co-authored by Marilyn Davidson) "Managerial Unemployment: Threat or Reality" is due for publication in 2000. She is currently the editor of Women in Management Review and lectures in several areas of psychology, including 'Gender and Diversity', at Manchester School of Management, UMIST.

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Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-471-49971-4

Chapter One

Developing Strategic Approaches to Diversity Policy

Gill Kirton Queen Mary, University of London, UK



This chapter considers how organizations might develop diversity policy in the context of the social, economic and legal environments of the UK. It is suggested that the dominant 'equal opportunities' paradigm has not yet been supplanted by a 'diversity' paradigm and the chapter therefore explores possible types of diversity policy, which are broadly characterized as reactive and proactive. The chapter discusses the role of two key policy levers-training and development and monitoring and auditing-to illustrate the challenges of translating policy into practice. In conclusion, the chapter argues that abandoning altogether traditional 'equal opportunity' policy would be a retrograde step, while asserting that if approached with caution, the diversity discourse does have potential topush forward the equality project.


Diversity is infinite: everyone is different from everyone else. If we take diversity to mean the multiplicity of characteristics that combine to make us individuals, we risk producing a definition so broad as to become meaningless (Heneman et al., 1996). On the one hand if we are to search for a definition that can be operationalized in the form of organizational policy, then it is necessary to narrow the definition in order to focus policy efforts. On the other hand, a broad conceptualization of diversity has the capacity to recognize not simply individual diversity, but also the heterogeneous nature of diverse social groups within the workforce (Liff, 1999), for example women, minority ethnic groups, disabled people and so on. The definition adopted for the purposes of a discussion in this chapter of developing diversity policy within organizations is one which locates the diversity debate in the categories of gender, ethnicity, age and disability because, as we shall see later, these demographic characteristics strongly influence employment outcomes. That said, the overlapping and sometimes fluid nature of these categories is recognized. For example, motherhood impacts upon women's relationship with employment, but not all women are or will become mothers. Thus different women will have different needs and aspirations over the life course.

It is also relevant in defining diversity that in the UK, in practice, when organizations talk about diversity policy they are usually referring to a set of procedures and practices, which were once labelled 'equal opportunities'. Equal opportunities policies (EOPs) have traditionally been concerned with the employment disadvantage and discrimination experienced by certain groups of workers, especially women, minority ethnic people, disabled people, older workers and lesbians and gay men. The general thrust of EOPs has been for organizations to develop procedures and practices to eliminate discriminatory behaviour by line managers and other gatekeepers and in so doing reduce the disadvantage experienced by individual members of the groups covered by the policy. One of the criticisms of this approach has been that it is negative, in the sense that failure to comply is associated with penalties (imposed by legislation) and punitive actions (for example, the disciplining of anyone found contravening policy). In other words, the positive benefits of compliance and commitment to the ideals or goals of the policy are not effectively sold to organizational members. In contrast, diversity policy seeks not only to recognize workforce diversity, but to value it rather than see it as a problem requiring a remedy. While there can be no argument with the valuing of diversity as a goal, the question which diversity policies need to address is how organizations can achieve that objective, particularly in view of the fact that to have a diverse workforce is no guarantee of that diversity being valued. Therefore, the project should begin but not end with achieving workforce diversity.

This is the background for this chapter's discussion of how organizations might develop strategic approaches to diversity policy. First, the social, economic and legal contexts of diversity policy development in the UK are discussed. The segmented nature of the labour market is highlighted, which gives rise to different patterns of employment among diverse employee groups. Second, the internal contexts of organizations are explored. Here, the emphasis is on dominant, hegemonic organizational cultures, which reproduce and reinforce normative values and behaviours, which run counter to a valuing diversity paradigm. Finally, the chapter turns its attention to consider how organizations might learn to value diversity. In other words, what kinds of policy levers might be contained within a diversity policy to push forward the terrain from an approach based on redressing discrimination towards one based on positive conceptions of difference?


The Social and Economic Contexts

Gender, race and ethnicity, age, whether or not one is disabled, are all factors which influence employment outcomes. The external labour market in which organizations are situated is sharply segmented (Kirton & Greene, 2000). However, it is not the intention of this chapter to enter into a detailed discussion of the employment inequalities which result from this segmentation. That said, the labour market patterns of various groups of employees is a relevant area for consideration here because it shapes the context in which diversity policy is developed, adding weight to the argument (made below) that diversity policy should build upon equality policy.

Female employment in the UK is now at the highest rate ever, with women comprising 45 per cent of the workforce and just below 70 per cent of women in employment. The largest employment rate increase in the last decade has been among women with children aged below five. The vast majority of women (88 per cent) work in the service industries and the main occupations for women are clerical (where 24 per cent of women have jobs), professional/technical (22 per cent), personal/protective (16 per cent), managerial (12 per cent) and sales (12 per cent) (EOR, 2001). These factors point to greater gender diversity in the labour market than previous generations have witnessed and indicates that organizations might need to adjust their employment strategies to recruit and retain this increasingly important labour source.

Non-white ethnic minority people comprise about 6 per cent of the British workforce. Recent analysis of Labour Force Survey data shows that ethnic minorities are disproportionately found in lower-skilled and lower-grade jobs. In particular, they are under-represented in senior management grades in large organizations (Hoque & Noon, 1999). This is despite progress having been made by most ethnic minority groups in qualification levels. It is notable that in terms of occupational and educational attainment there are considerable differences between different ethnic minority groups (Kirton & Greene, 2000).

Disabled people make up 13 per cent of the working-age population. They are over-represented in low-skilled, low-status jobs and are three times more likely than non-disabled to be unemployed (DfEE, 1997). The likelihood of an organization employing disabled people is linked to size (with larger organizations more likely) and sector (manufacturing most likely) (Honey et al., 1993).

Ageism is sometimes described as the fourth main form of discrimination in employment. Age intersects with other diversity issues: gender, race and disability, with women, ethnic minorities and disabled people experiencing age disadvantage to the greatest extent. People over the age of 50 are disproportionately represented among the long-term unemployed and older employees are less likely to receive training from their employers (DfEE, 1997).

The segmented nature of the labour market briefly sketched above produces inequalities of pay and opportunities among diverse social groups. Thus, the labour market tends to produce discrimination and inequality (Dickens, 1999) rather than to value diversity. This is the external social and economic context in which organizations develop diversity policy.

The Legal Context

The British legal and regulative framework for diversity and equality is set out in Table 1.1 and discussed more fully in Chapter 5. It can be seen that at present UK organizations can be held legally liable for cases of discrimination on grounds of gender, race and disability. There also exists a code of practice designed to promote age equality. British anti-discrimination legislation adopts a complaints-based approach, which concentrates on providing redress for individual victims of discrimination through the Employment Tribunal system, rather than seeking to promote equality (Johnson & Johnstone, 2000). For this reason, British legislation in this area has been criticized as being weak and minimalist in its nature. In order to avoid legal liability, employers are advised to adopt formal procedures to ensure that discrimination does not take place. Advice on how to do this is found in various codes of practice available from the Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission which, although not legally binding, provide guidance as to good practice.

The legislation outlined has underpinned traditional EOPs in the UK context and a shift to diversity policy does not render this requirement any less important. Therefore, it remains essential that organizations have policy mechanisms for ensuring that discrimination does not take place and that organizational members do not adopt discriminatory behaviours. Indeed, the need to comply with legislation represents a sound business case argument for developing policy. It is argued that it is not in the organization's interest in financial, productivity and public relations terms to be placed in the position of defending complaints of discrimination (Cameron, 1993). Yet, contrary to this, complaints to Employment Tribunals are increasing (EOR, 1999c), indicating that overall compliance with the law is partial. To risk stating the obvious, the rising number of complaints suggests that many organizations do not value diversity. Therefore, the law, albeit minimalist, provides a valuable safety net for many employees and has been an important trigger to EOP development. However, the UK legislation's partial nature (covering only two groups of employees until fairly recently) has typically constrained the breadth of coverage of EOPs and led most organizations to concentrate on gender and race equality. In terms of diversity policy development, the concern remains that some employers, who have been unconvinced by the economic arguments for complying with the law, will be similarly unconvinced by business arguments for valuing diversity. Generally speaking then, it is employers who have hitherto adopted strong EOPs (with the law as their foundation), who are likely to build on these to develop proactive diversity policy. The chapter now turns to explore the internal context of diversity policy.


Organizational culture is usually defined in terms of shared symbols, languages, practices and deeply embedded beliefs and values (Newman, 1995). This implies a high degree of homogeneity within the organization, which may not constitute an accurate picture, or alternatively, the organization may be seeking to become more diverse and for this reason cultural homogeneity may be perceived as undesirable. In any case, it would be naive to suggest that diversity and cultural homogeneity could coexist without coming into conflict. To look at this another way, diversity might create problems for some organizations whose cultures are not inclusive. In terms of defining organizational culture, it would be more accurate to say that the cultural values of the dominant group come to be seen as residing in the organization, but that subcultures also exist. Nevertheless, the dominant group-the power holders-is the group able to use their structural position to impose their own cultural values on other organizational members. Thus, organizational cultures are infused with power inequalities. Since white males dominate management, it is this group whose cultural values come to be seen as the norm. Other groups are required to conform to and assimilate within this norm. Alvesson and Billing (1997: 107) talk about the 'pressure for homogeneity and culturally competent behaviour'. This involves individuals, consciously or unconsciously, conforming and adapting to organization norms in order to fit in or progress their careers, for example by adopting the expected and desired language, work style, appearance and so on. The demand for 'cultural competence' reinforces and reproduces the dominant monoculture, from which those who do not comply, or conform, remain excluded.

It is worth providing a few detailed examples of cultural processes at work in organizations. Performance appraisal is a widespread organizational practice, which is supposed to evaluate objectively and fairly employee performance. However, the objectivity and fairness of appraisal have been questioned. It is argued that performance appraisal systems are framed by the cultural beliefs, values and assumptions of the people who design them. Cultural values then determine who is judged a good employee and who is deemed suitable for training or promotion opportunities. The problem is that in a diverse workforce cultural values and assumptions will not be homogeneous; what is felt to be a fair judgement of ability and potential by one subgroup might not be shared by another (Chen & DiTomaso, 1996), possibly resulting in some people not feeling valued. Another important area of human resource practice is recruitment and selection (see also Chapter 20). Case studies conducted in the UK context by Collinson et al. (1990) examine this sphere. Their study of the insurance industry uncovers the cultural assumptions underlying male managers' stereotypes of male and female attributes.


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Table of Contents

About the Editors.

About the Contributors.

Series Preface.




1. Developing Strategic Approaches to Diversity Policy (GillKirton).

2. Practice Chapter - The Importance of Diversity in Innovation(Carolann Ashton).

3. Diversity in the Context of Business Ethics (CatherineCassell and Phil Johnson).

4. Managing Diversity: Developing a Strategy for MeasuringOrganizational Effectiveness (Michael L. Wheeler).


5. Management of Diversity in the UK - The Legal andPsychological Implications (Jill Earnshaw).

6. Affirmative Action as a Means of Increasing WorkforceDiversity (Alison M. Konrad and Frank Linnehan).

7. Principles and Practice of Gender Diversity Management inAustralia (Mary Barrett and Andrew Hede).

8. Organizational Efforts to Manage Diversity: Do They ReallyWork? (Penny Dick).

9. Managing Diversity: Caste and Gender Issues in Organizationsin India (Elisabeth M. Wilson).


10. Gender Diversity and Organizational Performance (DeborahHicks-Clarke and Paul Iles).

11. Analysing the Operation of Diversity on the Basis ofDisability (Carol Woodhams and Ardha Danieli).

12. Managing Racial Equality and Diversity in the UKConstruction Industry (Andrew W. Gale, Marilyn J. Davidson, PeterSomerville, Dianne Sodhi, Andy Steele and Sandi Rhys Jones).

13. Is Diversity Inevitable? Age and Ageism in the Future ofEmployment (Chris Brotherton).


14. Designing a Diversity Training Programme that Suits yourOrganization (Roberta Youtan Kay and Donna M. Stringer).

15. Diversity Issues in the Mentoring Relationship (DavidClutterbuck).

16. Networking and the Modernization of Local Public Services:Implications for Diversity (Jean Hartley and Lyndsay Rashman).

17. Workable Strategies and Effectiveness of Diversity Training(David L. Tan, Lee A. Morris and James Romero).


18. What You See is What You Get: Popular Culture, Gender andWorkplace Diversity (Alison Sheridan and Jane O'Sullivan).

19. Male Managers' Reactions to Gender Diversity Activities inOrganizations (Anna Wahl and Charlotte Holgersson).

20. Bias in Job Selection and Assessment Techniques (MikeSmith).


21. Cultural Diversity Programmes to Prepare for the 21stCentury: Failures and Lost Opportunities (Norma M. Riccucci).

22. Cultural Diversity in the IT-Globalizing Workplace: Conundraand Future Research (Nada Korac-Kakabadse, Alexander Kouzmin andAndrew Korac-Kakabadse).

23. The Future of Workplace Diversity in the New Millennium(Tony Montes and Graham Shaw).


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