Equality, Diversity and Disadvantage in Employment

By Mike Noon; Emmanuel Ogbonna | Go to book overview

2 Evaluating Equal
Opportunities Initiatives:
The Case for a
'Transformative' Agenda

Wendy Richards


INTRODUCTION

Over the past twenty years there has been considerable debate within both the academic and the business community about the purpose and effectiveness of equal opportunities policies. Jewson and Mason ( 1994) summarise this debate, beginning with the view in the 1970s that equal opportunities was an issue of social justice and should be pursued for its own sake.In the 1980s the debate moved on as the 'business case' for equal opportunities was promoted, in response to the individualistic values and right-wing economic philosophies of the decade; since then newer approaches such as 'managing diversity' have gained prominence, and many organisations promote a commitment to equal opportunities as part of their business objectives. Why this should be so is addressed by Jewson and Mason (ibid.), and also considered by Dickens ( 1994). Academic and policy debate as to the effectiveness of such policies continues.

One element which appears to be common to all sides in the debate is that equal opportunities policies (EOPs) are valuable and should be promoted for their own sake, regardless of the merit or effectiveness of individual policies.To some degree, this belief may have fostered a culture in which organisations feel that simply by having, and to some degree disseminating, an EOP is sufficient evidence of their commitment to equal opportunities.This to some extent appears to be the position with respect to Opportunity 2000 — a campaign established in the UK in 1991 to 'increase the quality and quantity of women's participation in the labour force' ( Business in the Community, 1992: 5). The campaign lacks an important element of 'quality control', both over goals set by participating organisations and over the achievement of

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