In the publication of Discourses of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion: Trenchant Formulations or Transient Fashions? British Journal of Management, Vol. 25, 23–39 (2014) we note that there are 4 main parts to it. Firstly, the reviewing of management literature on diversity, equality, and inclusion in identifying the recurring themes and patterns. Secondly, analyze the Meta-level data in the published work of citation patterns and discursive trends. Thirdly, using Citation software to explore the 3 anti-discrimination discourses. And finally, discussing the implementation of anti-discrimination either through substantively or superficial methods.
In reviewing the extant literature and drawing the interference of discursive positions of approaches in identifying the factors, we need to check how the recent changes have been applied in the shift from equality to diversity. The review of 2 studies (1998 & 2001) searched for keywords in the ABI/INFORM database that covered 20 – 30 years of data (the 1970s – 1996) showing little concept before 1978 and a steep rise in journals in the early 1990s with a steady decline until 1996. Both studies saw a flare-up in the concept after their publication in 1978.
However, in 2001 it was pointed out that the predictions in the publication were false and based on conceptual misunderstandings, but the aftermath was already seen in the major changes in management style.
The role of consultants became prominent to meet the needs of new challenged. Equal Opportunity (EO) and Affirmative Action (AA) was replaced with Managing Diversity (MD) and saw the call for women and Ethnic minorities to climb the success ladder as companies needed their talents to stay competitive.
EO/AA was seen as old news relying on government regulations whereas MD was seen as “the new kid on the block”, fresh and guided by the free market. MtraditionalD opened the door to move beyond the tradition characteristics of groups and started focussing on individual differences.
Academic commentators have sent the debate in a new direction stating a difference between diversity and inclusion. According to them, diversity is recognizing the value of differences and inclusion in the process of incorporating differences to realize the value. The shift from diversity to inclusion was often accompanied by talks of change. The change was caused by an underlying recognition that diversity was not delivering on its promises. In the practitioner literature, they imply that the inclusion approach is superior to that of diversity. But other commentators see diversity and inclusion as a co-dependency, companies need policies of diversity to commit to inclusions for the benefit of differences.
Overlapping of these 2 concepts sees the shift from managing diversities to managing for diversities where the workforce can appreciate and capitalize on individual differences by including their perspective in the companies. Just like the conceptual similarities between MD and equality, the concept between inclusion and MD are similar, but the implementation of the concepts differs.
The analysis of SSCI in the extant literature was done to identify the patterns between inclusion, equality, and diversity using bibliometric analysis of data captured over 40 years. The bibliometric analysis focuses on over-arching patterns rather than sentence-level patterns used, but there are 2 distinct limitations to this analysis. One is content analysis with word combinations and the topics it applies to and the other is that not all business and management journals are included in the analysis.
The discussion on both bibliometric analysis and literature shows popular cycles associated with the debate on anti-discrimination. In Figure 1. We see that the debate around equality dominated for about 20-years, but the discussions around diversity gained more popularity in the following years with the debate around inclusion also becoming popular among stakeholders.
An analysis done by Keiser (1997) saw the different cycles overlapping as profitability grew, reaching its peak and then declining when new management fads or fashions materialized. These cycles of growth, peaking and declining before leveling out rather than stopping completely are in direct correlation with the studies published between the different management fads and anti-discrimination concepts.
By making use of citation software influential contributions to the field can be identified. In Table 2 the rankings take into account the number of citations, average per annum, and the pattern. Using the word ‘diversity’ in the general citation we identified the top 1000 publications. Excluding anomalies that were not part of workforce diversity, we ended up with the top 20 influential contributions to the field.
In Table 2 we noted that there are 2 distinct aspects. One is that the severely cited work is more recent and secondly, a prominent pattern in the citation of the significant work. A consequence of this pattern is that practitioner-focused insight predates academic engagement. Gladwell The Tipping Point (2000) made an argument that the diversity process became fashionable in a similar way to the ‘epidemic’. A vital part of the production and dissemination is rhetoric.
The explanation of rhetoric can convince the masses that a management concept is good or bad. Similar to ‘talking up’ or ‘talking down’ of views. One title comes to mind: ‘Managing diversity: succeeding where equal opportunities have failed’. Between 1990 and 2000 literature promoted diversity and downplayed equality. The so-called ‘fatal flaws of diversity’ (Noon, 2007) were by the emerging positive literature around inclusion.
Combining the bibliometric analysis and investigation of citation patterns, enabling the contribution to the extant literature on equality, diversity, and inclusion. It shows that anti-discrimination tactics have cycles of acceptance caused by rhetoric. It emphasized the problems associated with treating the different conceptual approaches as fashion trends. Also recognizing the rationality for equality, diversity, and inclusion as equally special, it’s more beneficial to focus on commonality, overlap, and compatibility. The analysis also enabled us to make some predictions of future endeavors in addressing discrimination in the workforce. The debate around inclusion will continue to gain popularity while the discussion around diversity will move even more to the background.