The Paradoxical Repertoires of Diversity and Professionalism: Exploring Socio-Economic Diversity, Continuity and Change in the Elite Professions.

Wednesday 6 February 2019, 3.30PM

Speaker(s): Dr Louise Ashley, Royal Holloway and Professor Hilary Sommerlad, University of Leeds

A critical question within the diversity management literature is the relationship between language and organisational change.

While mainstream perspectives focus on the business case discourse as the primary driver of progressive change, the critical tradition suggests that it tends to support existing power relations and thus the status quo.

The current study aims to challenge these dichotomous perspectives by showing how organisations and individuals negotiate the construction of difference in ways which (paradoxically) engender continuity and change.

Empirically our study draws on 44 interviews with members of elite accountancy and law firms in the UK engaged in efforts to improve socio-economic diversity. Theoretically, we use the critical discursive psychology approach to show how interviewees are engaged in a continuous process of negotiation between seven contradictory interpretative repertoires such that the meaning of diversity is never fixed.

Our primary contribution is to bridge the gap between mainstream and critical diversity management research by acknowledging how historical relations of inequality and power are reproduced within talk while recognising the potential for alternative narratives to generate localised emancipatory change. We consider the practical implications for those charged with doing diversity every day.

Location: LMB/020