DiWRG Event

Making managing diversity visible: A phenomenographic approach

Dr Jane O'Leary, Research Director, Diversity Council Australia

21 September, 2011

12.00 - 2.30pm

New Law Seminar Room 22


Considerable attention has been given to the notion of managing diversity in industry and academia. Yet, people still struggle to effectively manage diversity. Ongoing law suits and complaints, along with a string of studies and reports, have highlighted deficiencies in people's capacity in this regard. One explanation for why people still struggle to manage diversity is that we know little about the actual practice of managing diversity. Existing literature offers a plethora of suggestions for "best practice" or "effective" practice that do little to make visible how people actually manage diversity. This presentation will report on an interpretive empirical investigation on how people manage diversity. The findings show that people understand managing diversity in four qualitatively different ways. This understanding shapes the way they enact four key activities: sourcing, interacting at work, organising work, and developing careers. The research offers a first step in developing a theoretically and empirically grounded conceptualisation of managing diversity that explains how people actually manage diversity. The findings enable practitioners to better understand how to practise managing diversity, as well as better inform the development of educational initiatives on managing diversity.

Brief biography

Since 2001, Jane has worked at Diversity Council Australia, a not-for-profit membership-based organisation providing advice to Australian organisations on workplace diversity. In her current role as Research Director, she works with diversity practitioners and academics to design and implement innovative research projects, to  progress the broader public debate on diversity management. Prior to joining DCA, Jane worked in the federal Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency in senior policy and advisory roles, assisting employers on issues relating to diversity and inclusion. In 2010, Jane submitted her PhD through the UQ Business School. Her research investigated how Australian managers can most effectively manage workforce diversity. Her Masters' of Education focused on women in leadership.