Inclusion, Equality and Diversity in the Workforc?

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Updated: Jun 06, 2023
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In the publication of Discourses of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion: Trenchant Formulations or Transient Fashions? British Journal of Management, we note that there are 4 main parts to it. Firstly, the reviewing of management literature in diversity, equality and inclusion in identifying the recurring themes and patterns. Secondly, analysing the Meta-level data in the published work of citation patterns and discursive trends. Thirdly, using Citation software to explore the 3 anti-discrimination discourses. And finally, discussing the implementation of anti-discrimination either through substantively or superficial methods.

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In reviewing the extant literature and drawing the interference of discursive positions of approaches in identifying the factors, we need to check how the recent changes have been applied in the shift from equality to diversity. The review of 2 studies searched for keywords in the INFORM database that covered 20 – 30 years of data showing little concept prior to 1978 and a steep rise in journals in the early 1990’s with a steady decline until 1996. Both studies saw the flare-up in the concept after the publication in 1978. However, in 2001 it was pointed out that the predictions in the publication were false and based on conceptual misunderstandings, but the aftermath was already seen in the major changes in management style.

The role of consultants became prominent to meet the needs of new challenged. Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action was replaced with Managing Diversity and saw the call for women and Ethnic minorities to climb the success ladder as companies needed their talents to stay competitive. EO was seen as old news relying on government regulations whereas MD was seen as “the new kid on the block”, fresh and guided by the free market. MD opened the door to move beyond the tradition characteristics of groups and started focussing on individual differences.

Academic commentators has sent the debate into a new direction stating a difference between diversity and inclusion. According to them diversity is recognising the value of differences and inclusion is the process of incorporating differences to realize the value. The shift from diversity to inclusion was often accompanied by talks of change. Change caused by an underlying recognition that diversity was not delivering on its promises. In the practitioner literature they imply that the inclusion approach is superior to that of diversity. But other commentators see diversity and inclusion as a co-dependency, companies need policies of diversity in order to commit to inclusions for the benefit of differences.

Overlapping of these 2 concepts sees the shift from managing diversities to managing for diversities where the workforce can appreciate and capitalize on individual differences by including their perspective in the companies. Just like the conceptual similarities between MD and equality the concept between inclusion and MD are similar, but implementation of the concepts differs.

The analysis of SSCI in the extant literature was done to identify the patterns between inclusion, equality and diversity using bibliometric analysis of data captured over a 40-year period. Bibliometric analysis focusses on over-arching patters rather than sentence level patterns used, but there are 2 distinct limitations to this analysis. One being content analysis with word combinations and the topics it applies to and the other that not all business and management journal are included in the analysis.

The discussion on both bibliometric analysis and literature shows popular cycles associated with the debate on anti-discrimination. In Figure 1. We see that the debate around equality dominated for about 20-years, but the discussions around diversity gained more popularity in the following years with the debate around inclusion also becoming popular under stakeholders.

An analysis done by Keiser saw the different cycles overlapping as profitability grew, reaching its peak and then declining when new management fads or fashions materialised. These cycles of growth, peaking and declining before level out rather than stopping completely are in direct correlation with the studies published between the different management fads and anti-discrimination concepts.

Making use of citation software influential contributions to the field can be identified. In Table 2 the rankings takes into account the number of citations, average per annum and the pattern. Using the word ‘diversity’ in the general citation we identified the top 1000 publications. Excluding anomalies that were not part of workforce diversity we ended up with the top 20 influential contributions to the field.

In Table 2 we noted that there are 2 distinct aspects. One being that the severely cited work is more recent and secondly, a prominent pattern in the citation of the significant work. A consequence of this pattern is that practitioner focused insight predates academic engagement. Gladwell The Tipping Point made an argument that the diversity process became fashionable in a similar way to the ‘epidemic’. A vital part of the production and dissemination is rhetoric.

The explanation of rhetoric can convince the masses that a management concept is good or bad. Similar to ‘talking up’ or ‘talking down’ of views. One title comes to mind: ‘Managing diversity: succeeding where equal opportunities has failed’. Between 1990 and 2000 literature promoted diversity and downplayed equality. The so called ‘fatal flaws of diversity’  was in accordance with the emerging of positive literature around inclusion.

Combining the bibliometric analysis and investigation of citation patterns, enabled the contribution to extant literature on equality, diversity and inclusion. It shows that anti-discrimination tactics has cycles of acceptance caused by rhetoric. It emphasised the problems associated in treating the different concept approaches as fashion trends. Also recognising the rationality for equality, diversity and inclusion as equally special, it’s more beneficial to focus on commonality, overlap and compatibility. The analysis also enabled us to make some predictions of future endeavours in addressing discrimination in the workforce. The debate around inclusion will continue to gain popularity while the discussion around diversity will move even more to the background.

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Inclusion, Equality and Diversity in the Workforc?. (2022, Jun 28). Retrieved from