Rapid changes in the global economic market entail transformations affecting not only the external environment of organizations, but also its internal operations and processes (Hall, 2008; Hodgetts, 2002). One important change that has altered the nature of contemporary organization is the “acknowledgement, development and systematic use of the skills and knowledge of employees” (Ramirez et al 2007, p 496). The central role of employees’ participation in the success of the organization involves not only “high performance work systems… [but] they also involve the decentralization of decisions and work enrichment that is providing employees with opportunities for involvement in decision-making and innovation.” (Wood & de Menezes 2008, p 639). As such, contemporary organisations have provided the arena wherein growth and success of the firm is tied up with the growth and participation of the employees for the success of the organization (Li, Guohui & Eppler 2008; Wolfgang & Brewster, 2005).
However, it is not only contemporary organizations that have undergone changes. The nature of the contemporary workforce has also been modified (Jinzhao, 2007). Globalization is not only about removal of economic barriers among nations and movements of capital, investments and goods, but it also pertains to the more free movement of people across nations reducing the significance of physical borders as barriers (Fischer, 2003; Suarez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004). In this regard, the nature of contemporary workforce has been revolutionized from a homogenous workforce to heterogeneous, diverse workforce (Maxwell, McDougal & Blair, 2001). The idea of heterogeneous work force means “differences in attitudes, and behaviors of employees relative to gender, race, age, ethnicity, physical ability, and other relevant characteristics” (Jinzhao, 2007, p. 60). However, it should be noted that “dimensions of workplace diversity include, but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, religious beliefs, parental status, and work experience” (Thomas 1992). This reality pervades all organizations regardless of their nature.
In the light of this change in the nature of contemporary workforce, the concepts of diversity and equality will be discussed vis-à-vis the reality of women in the workplace. As such, this research will address the following questions: what are diversity and equality policies? Do they work? Finally, do they open possibilities and opportunities for women?
DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY POLICIES: A CONCEPTUAL LOOK
Diversity in workforce “include, but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, religious beliefs, parental status, and...