It has become fashionable in recent years to speak of issues of diversity and its management. Yet diversity is not so easily reducible. At the same time, inequality in the work place is visible and demonstrable. Moreover, this is not simply a matter of gender difference, there are many ways in which difference is constructed and acted upon. Discrimination against many groups such as women, immigrants and older people is commonplace and how and why this occurs is not clear. This book examines the ways in which difference in organizations is both produced and maintained. By emphasising the 'difference' as something to be managed many organizations institute 'the problem of difference'. This happens within the framework of apparent consensus as to purpose, direction and ideology. Postmodernism may actually have contributed to this problem via an acceptance of plurality which, in practice, might be seen to undermine notions of collectivity and dissipate political axis. While organizations pay lip-service to ideas of equality, their day-to-day practices may be unchanged and unchallenged.
Discrimination has not disappeared with the institution of notions of 'diversity' and the more problematic conception of its management. Furthermore, programmes aimed at promoting equality may actually exacerbate the situation by acknowledging and consolidating positions around diversity. In practice, this means that management of diversity might simply relate to the management of appearances. The chapters presented in this book show clearly the paradoxical way in which well-intended programmes of organizational change actually work against what they seek to achieve by establishing the very practices which they hope to address. The book also provides examples of they way in which power is used in the maintenance of inequality at different levels of the organization. This is apparent in various accounts of organizational behaviours from the strategic to the local. This results in questions about how research might be seen to contribute to this process offers a challenge to conventional approaches to diversity and its management.
Barbara Czarniawska is the Skandia Chair of Management at the Gothenburg Research Institute, School of Economics and Commercial Law, Gothenburg University. She is the co-editor of the journal Studies in Cultures, Organizations and Societies and is the book editor of the Scandinavian Journal of Management.
Heather Hopfl is Head of the School of Operations Analysis and Human Resource Management at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle.