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Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences Revue canadienne des sciences de ladministration 26: 173175 (2009) Published online in Wiley

Interscience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/CJAS.109

Introduction: Gender and Diversity at Work: Changing Theories. Changing Organizations


Gloria E. Miller
Isle of Man International Business School

Albert J. Mills
Saint Marys University

Jean Helms Mills


Saint Marys University

Managing diversity at the workplace presents as many dilemmas as triumphs, and is constantly fraught with innumerable tensions, conicts, and contradictions. . . . Yet, much of the management literature on workplace diversity (with few exceptions) tends to ignore or gloss over these dilemmas while continuing to stress the potency of workshops and training to accomplish the goals of workplace diversity. . . . Given the magnitude of the diversity movement, it is quite surprising to nd that few scholarly attempts have been made to understand exactly what it offers and how it might be inuencing organizational change (Prasad & Mills, 1997, p. 5). What does it really mean to say that an organization itself, or an organizational policy, practice or slot in the hierarchy, is gendered? In simpler terms, how do we know a gendered organization when we see one? This question is an important one, not only for the sake of theoretical and conceptual clarity, but also because the lack of precision with which the concept has been dened in much empirical work has potentially profound implications for the prospect of meaningful social and organizational change (Britton, 2000, p. 419).

In recent years, there has been debate not only around the application of theories of gender and diversity to organizational change, but also around contestation of the theories, or key aspects of the theories, themselves. That has been particularly the case in regards to diversity and diversity management, but also, to some extent, feminist theories of gender at work. In this special issue we sought papers that explore the relationship

between theories of workplace discrimination and organizational change. In particular, we encouraged submissionsfrom a variety of perspectives and methodological approachesthat reect on theories of gender and/or diversity and their potential to engender organizational change. The response to the call for papers far exceeded expectations, with thirty submissions from various countries across the globe. The outcome includes the current Special Issue with a planned second Special Issue in the works. The publication of this special edition of CJAS on gender and diversity in organizations is timely for the journal, the knowledge base, and practice. It is the rst Special Issue of CJAS on gender and diversity since June 1991, when the focus was on managing an increasingly diverse workforce (Burke, 1991). As the current issue will attest, the eld has moved far beyond the issue of managing diversity to examine not only the relationship between change and diversity, but also to question the underlying assumptions behind so-called diversity management approaches. A lot has changed since 1991, both in theory and in practice. The then nascent Women in Management Division of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada (ASAC) has since evolved into a Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division (GDO), as members confronted existing notions of diversity management and created some distance from simple essentialist accounts of women and men. More recently (in June 2008) a GDO

Copyright 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Area was added to the CJAS Editorial Board, with the appointment of the internationally respected scholar Judith Pringle. As a precursor to the establishment of the new GDO Area, the CJAS Editor-in-Chief, Rick Hackett, agreed to a Special Issue that would help to pave the way to a greater exposure to gender and diversity throughout the journal. The resulting submissions reect the growth of the area since the early 1990s and the development of gender and ethnicity studies as an international and multi-disciplinary eld, i.e., as an area of interest in its own right that focuses on the relationship between organization and gender/ethnicity rather than as a variable that is part of a broader study. This Special Issue includes papers from Canadian, British, Turkish, Dutch, German, and Finnish scholars. Their contributions represent multiple perspectives and levels of analysis. In Reasons Women Chartered Accountants Leave Public Accounting Firms Prior to Achieving Partnership Status: A Qualitative Analysis, Peggy Wallace explores female accountants narratives through in-depth interviews. Through narrative inquiry Wallace shows that decisions on whether to stay in the profession or to leave are unique and multi-layered. In particular, she moves beyond (but not away from) the usual focus on structural inequities to reveal that some women may actually leave the profession because they do not nd it sufciently challenging or meaningful. Interviews are also the chosen method of Elisabeth Kelans study of Gender fatigue: The ideological dilemma of gender neutrality and discrimination in organizations. Kelan takes a post-feminist approach, and draws on discourse analysis to make sense of her interviews with information communication technology (ICT) workers. She found that the women she interviewed and job-shadowed expressed the belief that their places of work were egalitarian, i.e. gender neutral, despite some evidence of discriminatory practices. In making sense of how employees coped with these contradictions, Kelan argues that the ICT workers can be viewed as experiencing gender fatigue. That is, that employees are tired of dealing with discrimination and they explain it away as being individual, personal, and/or in the past. This not only helped to maintain the notion of a gender equitable workplace but also established expectations of individual (rather than structural) responses to acts of discrimination. In An examination of gender inuences in career mentoring, Joanne Leck, Barbara Orser, and Alan Riding examine a popular organizational strategy for attempting to deal with issues related to gender and diversity in the workplace. Mentoring programs have become common in large organisations, their aims usually toward over-

coming barriers to womens upward mobility, yet little is known about gender inuences on the mentoring relationship or on the choice to enter such relationships. Using questionnaires administered to both men and women in Canadian public sector organizations, Leck et al. frame their study with Ajzens (1991) theory of planned behaviour and nd no differences between males and females in their propensity to be mentored, as both are driven by a quest for knowledge and psychosocial support. At the country level of analysis, Susan Merilainen, Janne Tienari, Saija Katila and Yvonne Benschop examine Diversity management versus gender equality: The Finnish case. They ask how is diversity management (DM) adapted to the Finnish work scene? They approach DM as discourse shaping practices and identities and they conclude that DM is shaped by social factors, i.e. not all differences are held to be equal, and that it can be used differentially in different societies to legitimize and perpetuate the control of the organizational elite. Their study has implications for the transfer of management practices developed in one culture to others, an issue becoming more important because of globalization and the proliferation of trans-national corporations. Finally, Ahu Tatl and Mustafa F. Ozbilgin, in Understanding diversity managers role in organizational change: Towards a conceptual framework, are interested in the scope and content of diversity managers agentic power, resources and strategies toward effecting change to improve organisational performance and satisfy business case arguments. They offer an explanatory framework based on Bourdieus (e.g., Bourdieu, 1998) theory of human agency which, though rmly integrated into existing literature, both theoretical and empirical, could be interpreted as a guide to effective change by diversity managers and as at least a partial explanation for why diversity management initiatives seem to be so often unsuccessful. They conclude that there is scope for the person of the diversity manager to initiate and support organizational change, but the nature and scope of (their) agency in the change process are demarcated by the situatedness, relationality and praxis of their agency (p. 28). As they aptly point out, the diversity management literature tends to conceive of change agents as autonomous, decontextualized and apolitical beings (p. 26), which is undoubtedly a far too simple view of a very complex situation. In summary, this collection raises issues about decision making, ideology, local and discursive practices, planned behaviour, situatedness, and rationality in gendered processes and outcomes. It also points to the richness of the eld and the various methods and methodological approaches taken to the issues involved.

Copyright 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Finally, it raises some new and different questions about gender and diversity at work. References
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50, 179211. Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: On the theory of action. Cambridge: Polity.

Britton, D. (2000). The epistemology of the gendered organization. Gender & Society, 14(3), 418434. Burke, R. J. (1991). Managing an Increasingly Diverse Workforce. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 8(2), 62144. Prasad, P. & Mills, A.J. (1997). From Showcase to Shadow. Understanding the Dilemmas of Managing Workplace Diversity. In Prasad, P., Mills, A.J., Elmes, M. & Prasad, A. (Eds.), Managing The Organizational Melting Pot: Dilemmas of Workplace Diversity (pp. 327). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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