Sub-theme 17: Diversity and Diversity Management: Beyond the Familiar into the Unexpected

Lotte Holck
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Patrizia Zanoni
Hasselt University, Belgium
Laurence Romani
Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

Call for Papers

In the thirty-year anniversary of the publication Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century issued by the Hudson Institute, which launched the notion of diversity, this sub-theme invites submissions dealing with dimensions of diversity, and diversity management, that are surprisingly today still missing from research or remain largely understudied. It is an open invitation for the consideration of novel, unexpected, undervalued or unresolved aspects of diversity and its management.
Perhaps the most obvious absence in diversity research is class. Why is this key feature of contemporary workplaces, increasingly in the foreground of research in the social sciences in the post-crisis period, largely absent from theorizations and empirical investigations of diversity (management)? This absence is highly surprising, given that class is a foundational axis of power at work, one that is clearly connected to the understanding and defining of multiple differences (see Acker, 2006). Only few scholars have addressed class, conceptualizing it either as an individual characteristic affecting one’s opportunities in the workplace (e.g. Gray & Kish-Gephart, 2013), as intersecting gender and race (e.g. Holvino, 2010), or as a ‘master matrix of power’ onto which social identities such as gender, age and disability become anchored (Zanoni, 2011). Despite the multiple possible conceptual approaches to class, why does none seem to have secured a prominent place in the diversity field?
Also largely understudied is the role of (sub-)national cultures in shaping specific understandings of diversity and its management. With the exception of studies on the translation of the US notion of diversity to other countries (e.g. Boxenbaum, 2006), research has only seldom thoroughly examined the role of culture in diversity processes (yet see Lauring, 2009). However, organizational views on diversity are commonly informed by national cultures. Also, while in international business environments, the business case for different cultures is frequently made, it has been rarely investigated. The critically oriented diversity research has largely focused on the notions of migrants, ethnic minorities, and discrimination (e.g. van Laer & Janssens, 2011; 2017) to emphasize power inequalities. Yet in a globalized economy, national culture differences are pervasive and cannot longer be solely associated to a cosmopolitan elite.
Similarly, few studies have analyzed the role played by contextual dimensions on the understanding and practices of diversity. Which impact do country-specific institutions such as labor market regulations and traditions, trade union representation and practices, welfare service provisions or non-profit organizations’ support have on diversity (management)? Likewise, transnational institutions are also likely to be determining. International production chains, trans- border operations, and free trade agreements impact the way diversity is defined and managed.
Diversity is currently mostly studied at an organizational level, somehow decoupling organizational practices from larger societal and global phenomena (yet see Özilgin & Tatli, 2011; Romani et al., 2017; Holck & Muhr, 2017). Which (new) conceptualizations of diversity (management) would emerge if we took a more macro-contextual level of analysis?
Simultaneously, diversity scholarship needs to pursue its investigation on how diversity is managed in practice, and with which effects on specific individuals, groups and organizations as a whole. We need to gain a better understanding of organizations which manage diversity surprisingly well, beyond familiar ‘best practices’, by setting up coherent systems of highly mainstreamed diversity management practices (Janssens & Zanoni, 2014; Roos & Zanoni, 2016).
The list of novel, unexpected, undervalued or unresolved aspects of diversity and its management is certainly long and would touch upon additional important themes such as materiality, affect, work, organizational, professional and other types of identity, to name a few. This sub-theme is an invitation to reflect on which paths research on diversity and its management have taken and an offer to contemplate alternatives. Contributions are invited that question the taken for granted and help extend our collective imaginary of what diversity is and could be.
We welcome studies adopting bold theoretical approaches and sharing counterintuitive results, including but not limited to the following topics:

  • Theoretical discussions and empirical investigations of diversity and diversity management that explicitly include class as a key identity or as a social relation of inequality in work settings

  • Studies examining the intersection of class with other dimensions of diversity and the power implications of such intersection

  • Studies examining how understandings of diversity and diversity management policies and practices are shaped by (sub-)national cultures and its power implications

  • Studies examining how (trans-)national institutions affect diversity and its management and its power implications

  • Studies drawing on psychoanalysis and theories of affect, desire and the unconscious to highlight novel dimensions of diversity and its management

  • Studies engaging with the practices and the materiality of diversity

  • How is diversity understood and managed on an every-day basis? What can we learn from the rare organizations doing Diversity and Inclusion in exemplary ways? What are the dialectics of inclusion and exclusion in relation to diversity? How can we reconceptualize the notion of inclusion?

Please note: Sub-theme 17 is linked to a special issue of the journal Gender, Work & Organization. This special issue aims to advance the field of research on critical diversity and inclusion (D&I) by theoretically and empirically exploring its multiple articulations with the notion of class.



  • Acker, J. (2006): “Inequality regimes Class, Gender and Race in Organizations.” Gender & Society, 20 (4), 441–464.
  • Boxenbaum, E. (2006): “Lost in translation: The making of Danish diversity management.” American Behavioral Scientist, 49 (7), 939–948.
  • Gray, B., & Kish-Gephart, J. (2013): “Encountering Social Class Differences at Work: How ‘Class Work’ Perpetuates Inequality.” Academy of Management Review, 38 (4), 670–699.
  • Holck, L., & Muhr, S.L. (2017): “Unequal solidarity? Towards a norm-critical approach to welfare logics.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 33 (1), 1–11.
  • Holvino, E. (2010): “Intersections: The simultaneity of race, gender and class in organization studies.” Gender, Work & Organization, 17 (3), 248–277.
  • Janssens, M., & Zanoni, P. (2014): “Alternative diversity management: Organizational practices fostering ethnic equality at work.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 30 (3), 317–331.
  • Lauring, J. (2009): “Managing cultural diversity and the process of knowledge sharing: A case from Denmark.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 25, 385–394.
  • Özbilgin, M., & Tatli, A. (2011): “Mapping out the field of equality and diversity: Rise of individualism and voluntarism.” Human Relations, 64 (9), 1229–1253.
  • Romani, L., Holck, L., Holgersson, C., & Muhr, S.L. (2017): “Diversity Management and the Scandinavian Model: Illustrations from Denmark and Sweden.” In: J.F. Chanlat & M. Özbilgin (eds.): Management and Diversity. International Perspectives on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 3. London: Emerald Publishing Limited, 261–280.
  • Roos, H., & Zanoni, P. (2016): “Disrupting gendered dichotomies: Gender equality in a high-tech Belgian company.” In: P.M. Flynn, K. Haynes & M. Kilgour (eds.): Overcoming Challenges to Gender Equality in the Workplace: Leadership and Innovation. London: Routledge (Greenleaf Publishing), 8–20.
  • van Laer, K., & Janssens, M. (2011): “Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences with subtle discrimination in the workplace.” Human Relations, 64 (9), 1203–1227
  • van Laer, K., & Janssens, M. (2017): “Agency of ethnic minority employees: Struggles around identity, career and social change.” Organization, 24 (2), 198–217.
  • Zanoni, P. (2011): “Diversity in the lean automobile factory: Doing class through gender, disability and age.” Organization, 18 (1), 105–127.


Lotte Holck is a post-doctoral researcher at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Her work explores issues of workplace diversity, organizational inequality and power with a focus on the intersection of ethnicity, gender, age, class and professional training. Methodologically, her research draws on engaged and performative ethnography to advance a problematizing and practitioner-relevant diversity research agenda departing from local contextualized cases. Her work appears in ‘Organization’, ‘Scandinavian Journal of Management’, ‘Personnel Review’, and ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – An international journal’. In addition, Lotte draws on 15 years of experience within labour market integration and diversity management in the public and private sectors.
Patrizia Zanoni is a Professor at Hasselt University, Belgium, where she leads the research centre SEIN – Identity, Diversity & Inequality Research. Drawing on various theoretical traditions including discourse analysis, Marxist theory and institutional theory, her research investigates how diversity comes to mean within and across organizations and informs the unequal distribution of value. She regularly collaborates with policy makers and civil society actors to foster equality initiatives. Her scientific work has appeared, among others, in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Organization’, and ‘British Educational Research Journal’.
Laurence Romani is Associate Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, Center for Advanced Studies in Leadership, Sweden. Laurence’s work focuses on issues of representation and interaction with ‘the other’ in respectful and enriching ways. Multiple perspectives and paradigms are used to consider in particular contributions from critical management, feminist and postcolonial organization studies to further cross-cultural and diversity management research and teaching. She has published articles in journals such as ‘Organizational Research Method’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, ‘Academy of Management Learning and Education’ or the ‘International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management’ and multiple book chapters in international handbooks and edited volumes.