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date: 05 December 2020

Diversity in the Workplacelocked

  • Regine Bendl, Regine BendlVienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Management
  • Astrid HainzlAstrid HainzlVienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Management
  •  and Heike Mensi-KlarbachHeike Mensi-KlarbachVienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Management

Summary

Diversity in the workplace, with a central focus on gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, (dis)ability, and religious belief, has become a major issue in organizations worldwide since the 1990s. How these different diversity dimensions are defined and constructed, as well as by whom and in what context, determines organizational practices. In turn, this determines the transformation of organizations from exclusive to inclusive ones.

The workplace is one context of social interaction, in which dimensions of diversity become highly relevant and visible. Depending on the organization’s perspective toward diversity in a managerial context, individual differences between employees can create value and foster innovation and creativity, or can lead to conflict. How diversity is constructed and reproduced within diversity management and inclusion determines how employees feel accepted and included and, thus, how they are able to realize their potential and to contribute to the organization’s vision and aims. However, legitimizing initiatives that foster diversity in the workplace only with potential profits it might generate – called the business case for diversity – and forgetting its roots in the moral case, has shortcomings and potential drawbacks on the aims of diversity management and inclusion.

Research on diversity in the workplace can be found in different forms. Generally, there are two main groups. Mainstream diversity literature works within the positivist research tradition and focuses mostly on the performance aspects of diverse workforces by conducting quantitative empirical studies. Critical diversity literature aims at promoting social justice by deeply understanding, criticizing and developing possible solutions. Both research streams have contributed to comprehend diversity in the workplace, realize its potentials and support marginalized groups.

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