Multicultural and diversity management

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Diversity management is the “recognition and valorization of individual differences”. "The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. Moreover, it is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity in each individual"(Patrick and Kumar, 2012). As seen from a US perspective, ‘Diversity management’ is supposed to represent a break from legislated equality concepts such as equal opportunity and affirmative action (Thomas, 1990 ; Thomas and Ely, 1996).

History of diversity management[edit]

Diversity management should be understood as a historically situated concept. Diversity management as a concept appeared and gained momentum in the USA in the mid-1980s. At a time when President Ronald Reagan threatened to dismantle equality and affirmative action laws in the USA in the 1980s, equality and affirmative action professionals employed by US firms along with equality consultants, engaged in establishing the argument that a diverse workforce should be seen as a competitive advantage rather than just as a legal constraint. Basically, their message was : do not promote diversity because it is a legal mandate, but because it is good for business (Kelly and Dobbin, 1998). From then on, researchers started to test a number of hypotheses on the business benefits of diversity and of diversity management, known as the business case of diversity.


Undertaken up to the present day provides only modest support to the proposal, that workforce diversity per se brings business benefits with it. Therefore, this idea remains open to debate and further research. In short, whether diversity pays off or not depends on environmental factors, internal or external to the firm. Dwyer, Richard & Chadwyck (2003) found that the effects of gender diversity at the management level are conditional on the firm's strategic orientation, the organizational culture and the multivariate interaction among these variables. Schäffner, Gebert, Schöler, & Kirch (2006) found that if the firm’s culture incorporates the normative assumption or belief that diversity is an opportunity, then age diversity becomes a predictor of team innovativeness, but not otherwise. Kearney & Gebert (2006) found that diversity in age, nationality, and functional background, have a positive effect on team innovativeness in a high transformational leadership context, but no effect in a low one. A curvilinear relationship between diversity and performance was identified by Richard, Barnett, Dwyer, & Chadwick (2004). Kochan, Bezrukova, Ely, Jackson, Joshi, Jehn et al. (2003), found few positive or negative direct effects of diversity on performance. In the cases that came under their scrutiny, a number of different aspects of the organizational context or group processes moderated the diversity-performance relationship. Failing to manage diversity properly or developing diversity per se leads to only mixed results (Bell & Berry, 2007; Klein & Harrison, 2007). Overall research suggests that diversity needs to be properly managed if any business benefits are to be reaped. If properly managed, diversity likely will hold its business promises. This does not preclude that diversity at all levels of society should be a goal 'per se'. Beyond business benefits, research should pay more attention to societal benefits attached to the promotion of more inclusive and diverse workforces.


  • 1 Roosevelt, 2010.
  • 2 Jones, 2011.
  • 3 Kaminska, 2009.
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  • Kearney, E. & Gebert, D. (2006). Does More Diversity Lead to More Innovativeness? An Examination of the Critical Role of Leadership, IFSAM VIIIth World Congress, Track 16, Berlin, 28-30 Sept.
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