Accepted Paper:

Discourses on diversity and identity produced by leading London companies  


Bernadetta Siara (University of Westminster)
Linda Clarke
Elisabeth Michielsens

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses various discourses around diversity and identity produced by leading London companies whilst implementing diversity strategies. Although diversity management approach calls for a need to recognize and value diversity, it carries the risk of essentialist perception of diversity and may not account for practices of mutuality.

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to discuss various discourses around diversity and identity. In 2007 Centre for Employment Research at the University of Westminster conducted a study on experiences of leading London companies in implementing diversity strategies. As the study showed, diversity has been given various meanings from equal opportunities to managing diversity and from moral to business case-related.

United Kingdom has been a point of immigration for centuries, and therefore is characterized by a culturally diverse population. However, discrimination on ethnicity grounds is still prevalent in the UK workplaces despite of equal opportunities legislation having been implemented in the 1970s.

In the 1990s equal opportunities approach started to be replaced by diversity management approach. Although, diversity management approach calls for a need to recognize and value cultural differences between employees, there is a risk that it may encourage essentialist perception of ethnic identities as `fixed` (Wrench 2005) and it may lead to employers not accounting for practices of mutuality. Furthermore, it may result in employers perceiving employees through socially constructed stereotypes (and for example as not being able to "fit in" company's culture), as there is no mechanism in diversity management approach to challenge prejudices (Kirton & Greene 2000). However, contemporary writers on identity in the multicultural context such as Bhabha or Hall, perceive identity as process, which is constantly being negotiated and according to this approach belonging in the multicultural society is a complex phenomenon. However, this may not always be taken under consideration in managing diversity.

Panel W057
Flexible capitalism: new forms of mutuality and diversity at work?