Managing Diversity


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Managing Diversity

  1. 1. Managing DiversityA Position Paper for the TRED Equal Project Drafted by Dr Alan Bruce October 2002
  2. 2. 1. Conceptual Background: US originsManaging Diversity is one of the key aspects of management and personnel practice toemerge from the profound socio-economic changes of the past thirty years. Beginningwith the changes promulgated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) in the UnitedStates, American industry began to experience the impact of new categories of workersfrom traditionally excluded sectors as well as from diverse ethnic and religiousbackgrounds. The entry of significant numbers of women workers and, later, those withdisabilities also brought about a range of challenges to work practices and structures thathad been traditionally based on a static, white male version of ‘normality’.The nature of the modern labour market reflects the wider social environment in terms ofincreased diversity occasioned by migration, demographic change and the changingnature of work due to technological advance. The labour market also reflects the changesin work practice that have been conditioned, on the one hand, by the process ofglobalization and, on the other hand, by the enactment of equality-based legislation invarious jurisdictions.Equal status for all, and particularly for those who have been traditionally excluded byreason of popular prejudice or discrimination, poses a set of challenges for socialinstitutions apart from the labour market. This has become particularly noticeable in theEuropean context where there is an extensive tradition of labour-related legislation and,with the added impact of the European Union, a strong emphasis on common standards toaffirm rights and regulate workforce conditions.Whether European or American, the management of diversity in the labour marketcontext has a number of shared concerns. These can be summarized as:• Best practice in the human resources development function• Maximisation of the potential of new and existing labour market participant categories• Reduction of social and economic cost in dealing with diverse labour groups• Conformity to national or transnational legislative requirements• Tapping into the creativity latent in diverse and non-standard work groups and perspectives• Innovative responses to inclusion, design and differentiated market sectors.The US origins of the concept of managing diversity focus straightforwardly on thehuman resource development aspect of the potential (and threat) of a diverse workforce.In the Workforce 2000 report on labour market projections (Hudson Institute 1987) it isaccepted that the American workforce will be re-shaped by issues around gender, race,ethnicity, national origin and age. It is accepted that managing diversity is a key priority 2
  3. 3. not because corporations are becoming kinder or gentler but because they want to survive(Edwards 1991).The imperative to create and sustain a diversity approach is, in this context, minimalistand reactive. It is necessary to recruit, train and promote diverse new groups because thiswill adapt best to externally changing sociological realities and to changing marketpreferences. The US conceptual framework relies heavily on the notions of: 1. affirmative action 2. equal opportunity 3. cultural diversity.This is grounded less on an appreciation of the changing nature of the wider society thanon the changing nature of the market and market requirements. Integration, in this sense,is valued as it produces more contented, potential consumers with enhanced spendingpower.However one-dimensional from a European perspective, the pioneering work of USscholars and practitioners in the area of managing diversity has produced important newconcepts and tools for managers and organizations. These tools are to design, implementand evaluate personnel, training and strategic planning processes that maximize potentialand contribution for all stakeholders in workplace organizations. There also is arecognition, even in the US context, that discrimination and prejudice are still powerfullyentrenched in traditional sectors. Evidence shows that despite decades of civil rightslegislation, qualified minorities and women are routinely passed over for promotion infavour of less qualified white males (McCoy 1994).Managing diversity is classically described in contrast to affirmative action and valuingdifference (Gardenswartz and Rowe 1993).In this paradigm, affirmative action refers to legally mandated written plans andstatistical goals for the recruitment, training and promotion of specific under-utilizedgroups. This quantitative, compliance-driven approach is remedial in that it attempts toright past wrongs. Its focus is to assimilate underrepresented people into the organization.Its key characteristics are:• quantitative• legally driven• remedial• assimilation model• opens doors• resistance due to perceived limits to autonomy and fears of reverse discrimination. 3
  4. 4. Valuing difference develops around moral and ethical imperatives to recognize andappreciate culturally diverse people in the labour market or organization. This pluralistapproach does not seek assimilation. The focus is on changing employee perceptions andattitudes. Its key characteristics are:• qualitative• ethically driven• idealistic• diversity model• opens attitudes, minds and culture• resistance due to fear of change or discomfort with difference.Finally, in distinction to the other models, we have managing diversity. This emphasizesmanagerial skills and policies needed to optimise each employee’s contribution to theoverall organizational goals. Initiatives are undertaken to enhance organizational morale,productivity and benefits. Following the recruitment of minorities and the change inemployee consciousness, appropriate policies, procedures and managerial interventionsare needed to operationalise a culturally diverse workplace. The key characteristics ofmanaging diversity from this perspective are:• behavioural• strategically driven• pragmatic• synergy model• opens the system• resistance arises from denial of demographic realities and the need for alternative approaches as well as from the difficulty of learning new skills and altering existing systems.In the United States, it has been recognized for some time that the continuation ofeconomic competitiveness depends upon the reversal of the trend towards a low-skill,high-wage workforce. Skills deficiencies in the workplace result in waste, lostproductivity, poor quality and reduced competitiveness among other things. Correct useof a culturally diverse workforce implies therefore not wasting potential and existingtalent through use of irrelevant criteria such as race, gender, religion or national origin.The persistence of discrimination and prejudice in industrial practice was recognized inthe results of the Glass Ceiling Initiative launched by the Department of Labour(Dominguez 1994). This found:• the critical mass of minorities and women were employed well below a certain level (the “glass ceiling”) in all categories of employment 4
  5. 5. • there was a national lack of corporate strategies to achieve equal employment opportunity practice – equal access and opportunity were perceived as a responsibility of the Human Resources section rather than a collective corporate responsibility• minorities and women were not employed in line positions which led to executive career tracks or greater rewards• minorities and women had less access to career development, training, certification and promotional posts of responsibility• recruitment practices significantly impeded promotional management prospects for minorities and women• inadequate provisions were made in companies to monitor discriminatory practices and procedures.Promoting a diversity culture has therefore been advocated in the United States as a keycomponent to growth and competitiveness. It is also one of the few areas in USmanagement practice where specific awareness of international trade dimensions andcomparative best practice are acknowledged. The international context of diversitymanagement relates directly to the process of globalization – a concept that is frequentlyunder-represented in the American literature. The priority of implementing and measuringprogress towards a diverse workforce has been strongly advocated by some authors(Henderson 1994).Henderson feels the diversity climate of an organization can be measured by:1. structure2. responsibility3. risk4. standards5. reward6. support7. conflict8. warmth9. identity.Best American practice in the field of managing diversity is concentrating on whatThomas has referred to as “Third Paradigm” strategies (Thomas and Ely, 2001). Thesefocus on the overarching theme of integration. Assimilation is seen to promote sameness.Differentiation goes too far in the other direction. The third model, however, promotesequal opportunity. It recognizes difference and then uses it as a tool to develop a learningorganization.This model posits eight preconditions to use identity-group differences in the service oforganizational growth, learning and renewal. These are: 5
  6. 6. 1. Leadership structures must understand that a diverse workforce will embody different perspectives and approaches to work and must truly value variety of opinion and insight.2. Management must recognize both the learning opportunities and challenges that expression of different perspectives presents for an organization.3. The organizational culture must create an expectation of high standards of performance from everyone.4. The organizational culture must stimulate personal development.5. The organizational culture must encourage openness.6. The culture must make workers feel valued.7. The organization must have a well-articulated and widely understood mission.8. The organization must have a relatively egalitarian, non-bureaucratic structure. 2. Changing perspectives: the European dimensionManagement of diversity in a European context does take into account, like the USmodel, the need for improved organizational cultures and human resource strategies.However, it diverges significantly from the US perspective in situating its analysis in anexamination of the changing nature of work itself and the qualitatively and quantitativelygreater role assigned to State intervention. Most European societies take it as a norm, inaddition, that the existence of parallel State welfare supports and mechanisms collaboratewith and enhance labour market policies and directions and do not contradict or inhibitthem.The range of social and economic challenges facing European industry in an era ofchange and global competitiveness has been fundamentally the same as the American.But Europe emerges from a specific historic matrix where the characteristics of social andracial difference have had a profound resonance of political change, threat and instability.All this occurs in a context where the majority of European States are moving towardsgreater collaboration and synthesis of policy directions in the emergence of structuresunder the aegis of the European Union.As a management technique, managing diversity has been pioneered by the subsidiariesof US firms in Europe (eg. Intel, Hewett Packard, Apple). It has also been indigenouslydeveloped in contexts where structures need to respond to:• increasing demographic complexity• inward migration• the massive return of women to the labour market• cultural complexity resulting from increasingly freer movement of labour within the European Union. 6
  7. 7. It has gained ground in socio-economic environments where management has had torespond to change and also to the increasing impact of equality driven legislation andrecognition of rights under the European Social Charter.As we will see, this has had a particular impact in Ireland. Here the fastest growingeconomy in Europe has had to contend with rapidly evolving labour market conditionsand expectations. The pace of change has been mirrored by some of the most extensiveequality driven legislation and monitoring structures in Europe. In addition, the Irishconcept of equality has diverged dramatically from the original European one – whichfocused primarily on gender – to embrace a wide range of other social categories.The underlying nature of labour relations is both hierarchic and collective. A business isconceived as a community of workers with different trades contributing to a singleeconomic activity under the supervision of a single employer. This concept correspondsto what classic industrial relations theorists have termed the ‘Fordist’ model. This relatesto a large industrial business engaging in mass production based on:• a narrow specialization of jobs and competencies• pyramidal management• hierarchical structure of labour• separation between product design and manufacture.This model has been largely dominant throughout Europe (Ferrara 1998) in variousdifferent forms. The core feature of this model is the crucial importance of standard full-time non-temporary wage contracts, centring around the trade off between high levels ofsubordination and disciplinary control on the part of the employer - and high levels ofstability and welfare/insurance compensations and guarantees on the part of theemployee.The key report on the future of work and employment in Europe, the Supiot Report(Supiot 2001) recognizes that this pattern is changing rapidly and dramatically. It locatesthis change in four areas:1. Rising level of employee skills and qualifications and consequent increase in employee autonomy2. Increasing pressure of competition on more open markets3. Evolution of information and communications technologies4. Entry of married women into the labour force and profound alteration of traditional family and demographic patterns.Because of the many kinds of national employment environments and national labour lawtraditions, no single common pattern of work relationships has emerged. Of the broadtrends that have been identified the following emerge:• Trends in self-employment as opposed to waged employment 7
  8. 8. • Change in traditional power relations in industry• Outsourcing and temporary work.The notion of diversity in the labour force, and the consequent need for changingenterprises to manage and develop diversity approaches, is located in Europe in theintersection between institutional reform and growing integration occasioned by theadoption of a single European market. The Treaty of Amsterdam paved the way for newactions in the adoption by the Council of Ministers of the Guidelines for Employment(Luxembourg, 15 December 1997). These rested on four pillars:• Employability• Entrepreneurship• Adaptability• Equal opportunities.Management of diversity in European terms has been centrally linked therefore to thequestion of enforcement of the principle of equality among citizens and the prohibition ofdiscrimination on a wide range of grounds. Legislation varies significantly between allMember States. In most member States, however, there remains a gap between the legalprohibition of discrimination and the actual outcomes for traditionally disadvantagedgroups. In all countries, legal proof of discrimination tends to be very difficult.The dramatic changes in economic performance in recent years have been linked toprofound changes in social structure and demographic composition. A significant dangerhas been identified in the fact that European rights are sometimes seen to be availableonly to European citizens and not to the millions of external workers, refugees andasylum seekers who have arrived in Europe. The extension of notions of equality of rightsof participation, citizenship and access beyond gender to all citizens and indeed non-citizens is now a fundamental question of European social policy. It also goes to the coreof what is expected in practical applied programmes for the management of diversity atmicro-economic and local level as well as at that of national (or supra-national) levels.Managing diversity in the context of fundamental social rights is an area of profoundimportance to both policy makers and commercial organizations. The Supiot Reportidentified key areas where progress needed to be made in the context of Europeanemployment policy. These are:1. Reinforcement of the right of free movement of labour and extension of that right to non-Union nationals legally resident in the European Union. Fundamental rights should not be based on nationality but on legally performed work.2. Resolution of the issue of trade union rights at Union level.3. The need for a European framework for information and consultation for companies operating in the single market. 8
  9. 9. 4. Recognition of the role of non-governmental organizations in the formulation and implementation of Union social policy.5. Pursuit of action at Union level to combat discrimination, especially on the grounds of race.6. Implementation of the fundamental principle of adaptation of work to the needs of the worker, particularly in the context of working time.Whatever about European policy directions, companies and commercial entities, bothprivate and public, have to grapple with unprecedented levels of change. In anenvironment where the traditional concept of the organization itself is changing, renewedinterest is being placed on making the organization responsive and creative in respondingto internal as well as external needs.Managing diversity can be seen, in its most minimalist, as a tool to enable companies toadapt to challenges posed by differentiated workforces where expectations and levels ofcommunication may even be sources of potential conflict. In a more expansive context,managing diversity may be seen as a powerful resource to benefit from the process ofchange and to tap into levels of creativity and potential produced by such radicaldepartures from past certainties.The professional Human Resource Management literature highlights these concerns inevolving European contexts. This accepts that there may a shift away from organizationalforms based on markets and hierarchies and towards more network-based forms oforganization. The ‘new competition’ literature (Best 1990) points to the growth of smallentrepreneurial firms, of industrial districts and high-tech sectors that relate to each otheron a network basis. The network perspective directs attention away from formal structureand policy towards the importance of patterns of social relationships within organizations.Concepts of trust, reciprocity and reputation are central. Several factors are identified asdriving the adoption of network based forms of organization. These have interestingconsequences for our evaluation of the importance of managing diversity strategies in theEuropean context (Ferlie and Pettigrew 1996).These factors are:1. An increased requirement for flexibility and learning2. Reduction of market uncertainty3. Managing joint production4. High technology base5. Managing cultural diversity.Ultimately, the literature makes clear that novel and unexpected forms of organizationalculture are emerging. While old certainties no longer exist, common needs remain. Theseneeds centre on forms of production and wealth generation that are flexible, equitable,person centred and socially responsible. Managing diversity is about the diverse 9
  10. 10. communities that have access, often for the first time, to labour market participation.Managing diversity is also about maximizing the potential inherent in human focusedcollaboration, however varied the seeming differences.The European connection between labour market diversity and equality has been exploredwith varying degrees of success in all Member States. In Ireland, with its recent history ofgrowth and development, this connection has assumed a powerful dynamic. 3. Irish Contexts: from dependence to diversityA key starting point for the analysis of issues around policy impact and issues of socialinclusion is the nature and pace of change in modern Irish society. The nature and extentof this change is producing a social configuration unlike anything that has preceded it.The transition from rural to urban – common to all other societies globally – has occurredin a context of continuing post-colonial adjustment in a politically divided society. In theIrish experience, deep currents of violence and instability have paralleled this process ofsocial change.The violence ranges from the more or less forced migration of hundreds of thousandsfrom their place of birth in the Republic since independence to the more overt, cyclicviolent instability in the North. Common concerns around underdevelopment andownership of wealth have been voiced in the context of perceived sectarianism,discrimination and significant disparities in access to resources.These unresolved conflicts of Irish societies and identities are the background to a deeperunderstanding of social inequality than can be assumed from a more traditional version ofsocial change, divorced from context and history. With conflict over resources andidentity as a starting point rather than result, it is suggested we can develop a moreaccurate picture of the tensions and difficulties (as well as the challenges andopportunities) involved in policy formation. This analysis helps us to locate issues aroundexclusion and inclusion in a proper framework of ownership and control - and access tothe fruits of ownership and control.Change in Irish society is not a bland, steady progression of economic indices but anunfolding and profound restructuring of all social, cultural, personal and ethnicrelationships and understandings. At almost every level of Irish social experience in thelate twentieth century there has occurred a profound and all-embracing re-examination ofwhat it means to be Irish.This means that traditional certainties no longer apply. In fact, traditional certainties canoften be seen as no more than parochial reassurances of assumed identity.The question of identity is at the core of much Irish social policy examination at present.In this sense, Ireland is not unique. The profound upheavals at European and global levelsof the past century have often been intimately connected with identity and/or the assertionof identity against assumed foes. The very project of the European Union has at its core 10
  11. 11. an assumption of the need for Europe to assert its place in the world, although againstwhat (or for what) remains unstated. The reality is that European identity is as fragmentedas Irish identity. It has as much baggage for its own citizens as for those countlessmillions who have been its colonial subjects.Decades of deprivation, emigration, political violence, sexism, unemployment anddisadvantage are not overturned by a few years of prosperity. More importantly, theattitudes, practices, rationalizations and understandings of those decades persist, andpersist profoundly, in the social and economic practices of modern Irish society andgovernmental structures. The specific nature of Irish social dislocation intersects and isorganically connected to more widely recognized aspects of the process termedglobalization. The globalizing process is pervasive. It means that no discussion on policyor strategy can be undertaken without a full parallel international understanding andanalysis.The connection between generic Irish socio-economic development needs and the needsof those groups currently accepted and defined as socially excluded is an importanttheoretical perspective. It means that policy considerations can be informed by a dynamicunique in European terms. In this dynamic, exclusion not power, emigration notgastarbeiters, landlordism not colonies were the norm - not the other way around. Muchof this thinking has been occluded by the economic experience of the past decade that hasbeen euphemistically self-defined as the era of the Celtic Tiger.It is not without interest that the image of the Celtic Tiger is a projection of self-image bythose who have benefited from the economic growth of the past number of years. It is anot so subtle identification with the authoritarian economies of East Asia – whose crisisand near-meltdown of the mid 1990s should be of interest to informed Irish observers.The crisis of growth without responsibility, wealth generation without restraint is thus notunique to Ireland.The great risk to current levels of economic activity is that, failing an accurate analysis ofhow prosperity emerged and its contours of in-built inegalitarianism, no mechanism ofunderstanding and redress will be present if circumstances change for the worse. Over-reliance on one particular sector (e.g. information technology) or facile economic analysis(trickle down wealth) can produce, at best, one-dimensional understanding.The fact remains that modern Irish society is displaying worrying levels of unevendevelopment as well as disturbing levels of documented inequality, poverty anddiscrimination. Environmental degradation, homelessness, two-tier social serviceprovision, absence of planning, asset stripping of public services and blind reliance onever-increasing consumption patterns are but some of the indices of current socialmalaise.At another level, has been the sustained attack – powerfully aided by some within at timea nearly monopolistic media system – on concepts such as social justice, human rights, 11
  12. 12. public morality and equitable distribution of wealth. One of the more distressing aspectsof this intellectual surrender, in the face of a rampant enterprize mindset, has been theinability to conceptualize in terms that are not derivative, dated and shallow. The need fora response that is connected to the real experiences of existing communities and theirneeds is at the heart of this evaluation. The need for educational and training provisionthat is innovative and dynamic is very different from perspectives that assume Irishsociety is a stereotypical transition from rural to urban, peasant to modern, backward toprogressive.Irish society is open, adaptable and flexible. It has benefited profoundly (thanks tolanguage and affinity) from its connection to the lessons of the great Civil Rightsmovements in the United States. It has, through its diaspora, been at the centre of alearning process where it can observe and understand the real nature of the globaleconomy in all its manifestations.Membership of the European Union has also had a profound effect on the sensibility andstructure of Irish social institutions. This has had both negative and positive aspects. Onthe one hand, there has been the culture of subsidy and the mindset of unilinear economicexpansion. Under the guise of the need for standardization and market harmonization,significant areas of autonomy and local decision-making have been impaired. Thesustained inability of the institutions of the European Union to overcome their self-declared ‘democratic deficit’ has been a major failing. The lack of transparency andaccountability (shared however with most national governments) has placed a newemphasis on societies to re-assert the meaning and importance of a dynamic democracy.On the other hand, the European Union’s emphasis on a social market model andpartnership finds a ready resonance in the Irish body politic. In fact, it can be cogentlyargued that it is this aspect, with its lavish redistribution of resources from richer topoorer areas of the Union, which has been a significant contributor to Ireland’s recentprosperity. At another level, the European Union, through its specific funds andCommunity Initiative programmes, has allowed the creation of community to communitylinkages across the Union where much learning and exchange has occurred. This influx ofmoney, ideas and standards has propelled Irish society to a point where it has had toaddress the educational, training and social needs of its citizens as of right in their countryof birth for the first time since the establishment of the State.This exposure to external ideas, coupled to the need to provide for a growing populationwith new expectations and a sense of entitlement, has transformed Ireland into aquestioning and confident society.The depiction of Ireland as a homogeneous and uniform cultural polity is a recent andflawed one. It has its origins in the settlements achieved by the Land League, thepervasive cultural expansion of the Roman Catholic Church in the post-Famine era andthe inert conservatism of the two States which emerged from the Partition settlement. Thetrauma of the last thirty years has been in equal measure linked to social change, 12
  13. 13. urbanization, inequality and cultural identities as much as it has been to movement forpolitical unification or resistance to unification.For our purposes, the key point is that Ireland has never been a uniform or agreed socio-political entity. The nature of Irish society has been a fragmented, divided and polyglotone. In its very fibres, Ireland has been a laboratory of diversity. Its cultural mosaic hasencompassed layers of identity not to be expected in a remote offshore island. Itsdiscontinuities and divisions have however been the source of extraordinary creativityand interplay, where no one culture (Celtic, Gaelic, Danish, Norman French, English,Scottish, Flemish, Jewish or Huguenot) has had a monopoly of Irishness.This should provide a useful starting point for understanding the challenges andopportunities that are involved in policy responses, regarding diversity management.The derivative and imported nature of much Irish legislation and social policy has been anissue of note for many decades. Irish schooling, for example, has tended to model itselfon and compete with external systems, largely British. This has tended to deprive Irishsocial discourse of authentic indigenous voices addressing concerns, albeit from aperspective of international best practice. Particularly in community spheres likedisability, gerontology, health services planning, gender studies, housing provision,spatial planning, transport and cultural diversity the first instinct has often been to reachfor imported models, both of analysis and of practice.Two issues emerge strongly from this. One is the question of equality of opportunity.Embedded firmly in the thinking and values of the French Revolution, equality as aconcept has been a highly contentious issue in Europe ever since. From Napoleon toThatcher, equality has been often derided and demeaned as a concept. In the United Statesthere is a richer tradition of the acceptance and assertion of rights but a correspondingmarginalization of the need to accept any underlying a priori equal status between humanbeings, except in the context of the obligations of citizenship. Equality should not beseen therefore as axiomatic and widely accepted in all western societies.Second is the question of the norm against which diversity is judged. In charting the poorlevels of access for those experiencing social exclusion, the literature of the EuropeanUnion for example refers constantly to ‘average’ persons. In a context where the averageis never defined or the normal spelled out, it is difficult to see diversity as anything otherthan that which is variably defined at any one time by individuals and structures whichenvisage themselves as average or normal. Clearly this value-ridden concept is less thanuseful. Further, it neglects the issue of power relations and control in existing societies.The norm clearly does not refer to a statistical average. Nor does it refer to a historicalconstant. Its very use contains the bias against which equality approaches must engage. Itcan be assumed that average refers to white, male, urban, able-bodied, young andeducated people. However this is only an assumption. What is important is thatconceptual clarity be employed from the outset in approaching issues around diversity.What is important is that a rigorous analysis of the existing conditions and characteristics 13
  14. 14. of the presenting society be employed to make sense of the discrimination in practice andattitude that exists.Not withstanding the endervours that have been made in recent years within theframework of social partnerships this has been done inadequately in Ireland. Policy hasaddressed social exclusion in a largely mechanistic and ad hoc manner. Adding to thedifficulty has been the historic tradition of the State (at both national and local levels) toavoid responsibility for issues around promotion of diversity - seeing them as theprovince of charity or ‘voluntary’ effort. 4. Managing Diversity: Irish labour market trendsThe Irish labour market has undergone fundamental shifts in recent years. Emerging froma history of neo-colonialism, Irish industry has found itself thrust into a rapidly evolvingworld market. At the same time its success has generated for the first time in the historyof the State, a net inward migration. European standards, and the increasing levels ofawareness and education of the indigenous population, have brought a renewed emphasison rights and social inclusion. The rigid hierarchies of traditional Irish society, whichviewed itself as homogeneous and uniform, have been profoundly challenged. A newIreland is emerging quite unlike anything that has gone before.In this context the increasing diversity of Irish society has been recognized in a number ofways. In economic policy terms, the State is driven by an open market and tradingorientation externally, and a social partnership model internally. This means that nationalemployment policy is focused on growing employment in a context where the Statesecures collaboration between employers and trade unions.The government of the Republic has a vigorous programme of tax incentives andinducements to attract external industrial and economic investment. With some variationsin effectiveness, this has produced a significantly more open and prosperous economy.The accompanying levels of social and cultural change have transformed the country intoa contemporary, urbanized and – in recent years – relatively wealthy society. The growthin education and employment opportunities has been reflected in the demise ofemigration. In recent years a net inflow of people has occurred as emigrants and manyforeigners arrive to access the benefits of an economy which has been booming since theearly 1990s.The booming economy has masked, however, continuing social inequalities anddisparities in access to income. A legacy of centuries of impoverishment andunderdevelopment is not cast off in a mere decade. On many levels the struggle for socialand civil rights has also been a characteristic of Irish society in recent years. It is notsurprizing that in a country dominated by the ethos of the Roman Catholic church, issuesaround women, reproductive rights, education, charity, the role of the State and civillegislation have dominated public discourse. 14
  15. 15. In social and educational affairs the State traditionally played almost no part, leaving suchissues to the Church. As women have massively entered the workforce, as education hasbecome more pluralist, as minority rights have been asserted and as the State has beenforced (often through national and European courts) to accept its responsibilities, thesocial landscape of Ireland has altered profoundly and irrevocably.Weak levels of indigenous investment, rampant property speculation, lack of civiltransparency, poor levels of planning and research, chronic infrastructural deficits andshabby levels of public service (a result of the de-investment strategies and cuts of the1980s) have resulted in a society where the benefits of growth and prosperity are notequally distributed. In addition, the locus of industrial growth and investment has largelybeen outside the State. Beneficial tax regimes for foreign investment mean that UnitedStates investment alone is one of the highest per capita in the world.The issue of marginalization in Irish society has provided an important starting point forthe development of a vigorous and impressive debate on equality. Equality legislation –of which Ireland has now some of the most advanced in Europe – is explicitly linked toissues of poverty and access to resources.Equality can be defined as the concept that all human beings have the same rights. It doesnot mean uniformity or sameness. Concepts of equality link closely to concepts oftolerance and democracy. The struggle for the recognition of human rights is seen as oneof the key tasks of contemporary Irish society.Ireland’s experience as a colonized country, with centuries of enforced underdevelopmentand external domination, give it a unique perspective in European terms when it comes tothe analysis of power, inequality and difference. This experience intersects with otherEuropean societies in a number of generic areas of concern. These are the thematicstarting points to look at the nature of inequality and how the resulting exclusion andimpoverishment can be addressed in developing a common European response.The State established the Equality Authority on a statutory basis in 2000. This has provedto be of enormous significance. The passage of the Employment Equality Act in 1998 andthe Equal Status Act in 2000 have outlawed discrimination under a number of headings.These are:• Disability• Gender• Marital status• Family status• Age• Race• Sexual orientation• Religion• Membership of the Travelling Community. 15
  16. 16. The Equality Authority has spearheaded a campaign to highlight the increasing diversityof Irish society. It has promoted a greater sense of public awareness and has sponsored aseries of initiatives. Among these is an equality auditing process for Irish firms to see howthey understand the principles of the new legislation and how companies may bestrespond to the needs of a diverse workforce.These positive developments occur at a time when the unemployment rate in Ireland hashalved since 1997, economic growth has continued at over 10% per year, those at workhave increased dramatically and government policies are showing awareness of changinglabour market conditions. A strong feature of this approach has been to involve both tradeunions and employer organizations in joint initiatives to promote awareness of diversityand development of positive responses to a changing workforce.Significant barriers remain however. The glass ceiling difficulties noted in the Americanliterature have been replicated in Irish conditions. Women still remain excluded fromaccess to promotion and are significantly underrepresented at senior managerial levels.The structure of work itself has created family-unfriendly attitudes and resources.Demand for childcare has escalated with the economic boom and demand for labour. Yetthere is no state or public system. The cost remains prohibitive (and the quality is capableof significant variation in view of the lack of enforced national standards). Those withlow incomes can seldom afford the childcare available or cannot access it at all. Withoutadequate State provision these women are left further behind.Second is the area of vocational training. In the area of job training many programmeshave simply not been related to labour market needs, but rather to the need to keep figureson the live register of the unemployed as low as possible. A recent study by the Economicand Social Research Institute (ESRI: Investing in People: The Labour Market Impact ofHuman Resource Intervention Funded under the 1994-1999 Community SupportFramework in Ireland, Dublin 2001) found that employment schemes with strong marketlinkages were most successful in promoting sustained employment. It further found thatexpenditure on human resource development accounted for over one-third of EUexpenditure in the Republic in the 1994-99 period and yet 50% of the job trainingschemes had had no effect. This has had a disproportionate effect on marginalized groups,like those with disabilities.Training and education in the area of diversity has been underdeveloped. In the area ofdisability awareness, many voluntary agencies have attempted to highlight issues ofconcern and to promote greater degrees of consciousness among human resourcespecialists and trainers. No systematic national programme has been developed however.In regards to disability, national policy is formally one of mainstreaming, yet resources topromote mainstreaming have simply not been provided in labour market contexts.For managers, only one programme in the area of diversity has been delivered – theDiploma in Professional Studies – Managing Diversity. This was developed by Ireland’s 16
  17. 17. largest private sector employer, Waterford Crystal, and delivered in association withUniversity College Cork.The awareness that Ireland is now a multicultural and diverse society is widely accepted.What is not clear is how this relates to conceptual clarity, understanding of historiccultural differences and mechanisms of change in the labour market itself. Responsesbased on other countries’ reactions to racial diversity, for example, may not necessarilyreflect the realities of Irish labour conditions. Ireland will need to build on its own lessonsof past disenfranchisement to overcome contemporary blockages. Forging a commonsense of Irishness that is at once multi-layered and complex is no easy task in light ofIrish political history.Legislation can prevent more blatant forms of discrimination. In a society wherelegislation itself has often reinforced discrimination, a more fundamental challenge tomodels of diversity management and inclusion may be needed. Promotion of tolerancethat works in the interest of all social stakeholders will require significant investment inwork-based learning, innovative management training systems and person-centredstrategic planning to inculcate principles of diversity. This may be done in an employerled context using, among other tools, EU funded initiatives like EQUAL (Bruce 2001).While anti-discrimination legislation has produced conformance much remains to be donein the area of education and positive programmes that promote a vigorous andmultidimensional socio-economic entity. 1. References1. Hudson Institute (1987). Workforce 2000. Indianapolis: Author.2. Edwards, A. (1991). The enlightened manager: how to treat all employees fairly, Working Woman, 16, 45-51.3. McCoy, F. (1994). Rethinking the cost of discrimination. Black Enterprise, 25, 54-59.4. Dominguez, C. (1992). The challenge of Workforce 2000. The Bureaucrat, 21, 15-19.5. Henderson, G. (1994). Cultural Diversity in the Workplace. Westport: Praeger.6. Gardensatz, L. and Rowe, A. (1993). Managing Diversity: A Complete Desk Reference and Planning Guide. Irwin: Business One.7. Thomas, D. and Ely, R. (2001). Managing Diversity, Cambridge: Harvard Bsiness School.8. Ferrara, M. (1998). Le Trappole del Welfare. Bologna.9. Supiot, A. (2001). Beyond Employment: Changes in Work and the Future of Labour Law in Europe. Oxford: University Press.10. Council of Ministers (1997). Guidelines for Employment. Luxembourg: European Union.11. Best, M. (1990). The New Competition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.12. Ferlie, E. and Pettigrew, A. (1996). Managing through Networks, British Journal of Management, 7, 581-599.13. Mabey, C. (2000). Strategic Human Resource Management. London: Open University Press. 17
  18. 18. 14. Bruce, A. (2001). Learning with Europe. Waterford: Waterford Crystal.15. Equality Authority (2002). Annual Report. Dublin: Department of Justice, equality and Law Reform. 18