Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Diversity Management versus Gender Equality: The Finnish Case

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Diversity Management versus Gender Equality: The Finnish Case

Article excerpt

Abstract

The notion of diversity management (DM) has in recent years spread out from its Anglo-American origins. However, few studies have theorized how alternate discourses established in particular societal contexts can challenge penetration of the organizational agenda by DM discourse. Based on a study of corporate websites, we offer a description of DM discourse in Finnish companies. We show how gender equality as an institutionalized societal discourse shapes the meanings attached to DM, and discuss the power effects of this intertwining. For the burgeoning research on diversity management, the Finnish case illuminates how a gender egalitarian context affects the inclusion of certain manifestations of diversity (and its management), while excluding others. Copyright © 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

JEL classification: M16

Keywords: diversity management, gender, equality, discourse, Finland

Résumé

Au cours des dernières années, le concept de gestion de la diversité (désormais DM) s'est répandu au-delà du monde anglo-saxon dans lequel il est né. Cependant, peu d'études ont théorisé la manière dont d'autres discours, nés dans des contextes sociaux différents, remettent en question l'influence de la DM sur les objectifs des entreprises. Dans le présent article, nous proposons une description des discours sur la DM dans les compagnies finlandaises, en nous appuyant sur une étude des sites web d'entreprises. Nous montrons comment la parité homme/femme en tant que discours social institutionnalisé façonne les interprétations de la DM et examinons les effets de cette interdépendance. Dans le champ prometteur des recherches sur la gestion de la diversité, le cas finlandais montre comment un contexte marqué par l'égalité des sexes entraîne l'inclusion de certaines manifestations de la diversité (et de sa gestion) tout en en excluant d'autres. Copyright © 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Mots-clés: gestion de la diversité, appartenance sexuelle, égalité, discours, Finlande

Managing diversity has emerged as a popular issue in the global economy. Since its adoption by US and Canadian companies and public sector organizations in the 1980s and 1990s (Johnston & Packer, 1987; Kelly & Dobbin, 1998; Miller & Rowney, 1999), diversity management (DM) has assumed greater importance in other parts of the world as well. Specifically, large companies are claiming diversity as a core value, and launching specific diversity policies and programs (Egan & Benedict, 2001). However, it has been difficult to root the DM concept outside Anglophone countries since its development has taken place in a specific multicultural context that is not directly comparable to other cultural contexts that have different histories of diversity, such as the Nordic countries (Billing & Sundin, 2006; Boxenbaum, 2006; Sippola & Smale, 2007), southern Europe (CabralCardoso, 2006), or Oceania (Jones, Pringle, & Shepherd, 2000; Sinclair, 2000).

At the same time, the notion of managing diversity has become unclear and ambiguous as it has been given different meanings in different societal conditions. This means that the ways in which diversity is understood seem to vary considerably between nations and among companies within nations, depending on the particular mix of people representing different backgrounds (Calas & Smircich, 2006). Approaches to DM also vary between multinational companies operating in different cultural locations (Singh & Point, 2004, 2006).

Recent research on DM indicates that it does not, in key respects, differ from other management initiatives and ideas (Czarniawska & Sevon, 1996; Furusten, 1995): the popular label is spread, but the content varies as it is adopted and adapted in different national and local contexts (Boxenbaum, 2006; Miller & Rowney, 1999). Given that DM is important in shaping people's thoughts and beliefs, more understanding of its local forms is needed. …

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