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Exploring diversity management in Australian organisations

Authors
Publication Date
Keywords
  • 150306 Industrial Relations
  • 150305 Human Resources Management
  • Gender
  • Diversity
  • Managing Diversity
Disciplines
  • Law

Abstract

Diversity management recognises the differences across employees in terms of personal attributes. In organisations, the aim of equity and diversity strategies is to recognise and incorporate these differences into policies and practice to achieve equity outcomes or enhance business practices. Many Australian organisations, both public and private, proclaim on their websites that they have equity and diversity management strategies but the extent and type of these policies vary widely. The focus of this paper is an analysis of the different policy approaches within Australian organisations, and the drivers for these differing approaches. The article will examine the following key areas: 1) What is managing diversity (MD) and what are its origins in an Australian context? In particular, what factors are driving a MD approach by Australian organisations? 2) What is the national legislative and public policy (Australian) context in which equity and diversity policies are operating within organisations? The paper plots the trajectory of Australian approaches to equity and MD, including legislative approaches (anti-discrimination legislation and equal opportunity legislation) as well as non-legislated approaches. It examines the goals of the legislation and related policies and places them within the international policy context. 3) What are the benefits and drawbacks of the different legislative and policy prescriptions when implemented by organisations? The paper explores the range of approaches of MD, specifically discussing ‘productive diversity’ and ‘valuing diversity’ approaches. The paper concludes that the complexity of the legislated approach to equal opportunity through the equal by ‘sameness’ treatment and the equal by ‘difference’ treatment has resulted in a nebulous web of structures and policies. While individuals, groups and various stakeholders can swing between one approach and the other in order to meet their needs, the system and its rules and processes that have caused the disadvantage in the past remain the same. While the multiple implementations of different equity management strategies is increasingly recommended by Australian and British scholars, the results in Australia of a mixed approach are not particularly encouraging and with outcomes that vary across industries and organisations. For example, the reports required through the equal opportunity legislation indicate a variety of policy emphasis and various implementation strategies, with more than ten per cent of organisations doing nothing and a majority of large organisations concentrating on individualised work organisation strategies. The discussion draws on public documents and public policy, while recognising the insights gained by organisational reports and case studies of the MD programs of Australian organisations which have been conducted by the researchers.

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