Face of the Firm: Aesthetic Diversity in the Workplace
Juliet’s project examines diversity in the workplace, with a particular focus on whether firms’ use of diverse imagery in promotional materials reflect the true diversity of their workforce. Juliet also explores the differences between aspects of diversity that are immediately apparent and less obvious characteristics.
Juliet believes that refinement and adjustment of the abstract and subjective concept of ‘diversity’ is necessary. Changing societal demographics generate organisational benefits and challenges in managing increasing levels of diversity.
Juliet’s research focusses on small to medium size law firms and finds that although diversity management is legitimised in their business cases, in some circumstances firms are not fully aware of the importance of diversity in practice.
Her initial findings include:Juliet conducted 44 interviews across four small and medium law firms in the UK. She also reviewed the companies’ webpages and hard-copy marketing brochures and held telephone conversations with marketing personnel.
- Diversity continues to be viewed as the most obvious characteristics, such as race and disability.
- Less obvious diversity traits such as knowledge and experience are more overlooked.
- Age as a diverse trait is notably absent from most people’s definition of diversity.
While firms continue to portray visible diversity through marketing strategies, they apply a less rigorous commitment to their diversity and equal opportunity policies in the workplace.
Juliet concludes that diversity utilised for aesthetic reasons has policy implications, ethical implications, as superficial inclusivity allow firms to tap into new markets. She also argues that there are economic implications, as diversity on marketing materials may encourage new employees and customer base who feel the firm represents them.
Blogs and articles
IMPACT AND INFLUENCE
Of specific interest for this research is examining how an organisation can create an employer image which shows that they genuinely value diversity and proactively seek to encourage applications from more diverse groups. After all, employees are the face of their firms. This research urges organisations to ensure that their employer branding and marketing of their employer image in terms of diversity are consistent with their actual levels of workforce diversity. The creation of the ‘aesthetic diversity’ concept thereby repositions diversity management from an evolved organisational strategy into a societal issue.
- Diversity continues to be viewed as the most observable, instantly-recognisable forms as demographic characteristics; notably gender and race.
- Given the management emphasis placed on the business case for diversity (workplace diversity is viewed as beneficial regarding increased profits and competitive advantage), these less-visible diversity traits, such as knowledge and experience, are more overlooked in definitions of diversity.
- Of the demographic characteristics, age as a diverse trait is notably absent from most people’s definition of diversity.
- Given the law firm context, there were surprisingly very few who alluded to technical, legal terminology to define diversity.
- While firms continue to portray ‘visible’ workforce diversity through marketing strategies to transmit an ‘inclusive’ image and appeal to both prospective clients and applicants, they apply a less rigorous commitment to their diversity and equal opportunity policies in the workplace.
- Diversity and equal opportunities policies are only (informally) applied at recruitment stages and are not implemented at instances when they could be more beneficial, such as at appraisal, training or promotion stages.
- While management stated that they believed in the business case for diversity, much recruitment, especially for senior positions, was done informally through word-of-mouth.
Juliet concludes that diversity utilised for aesthetic reasons has policy implications and ethical implications, as superficial inclusivity allow firms to tap into new markets. She also argues that there are economic implications, as diversity on marketing materials may encourage new employees and customer base who feel the firm represents them. She also believes that there is a strong argument to suggest that aesthetic diversity may be applied to other industries and larger organisations, as businesses face the continuous challenge of attracting and retaining the best talent.
For any enquiries regarding this project please contact:
Dr Juliet Kele,
Centre for Responsible Business,
Birmingham Business School,
University of Birmingham
Tel: +44 (0)121 412 2248
Dr Juliet Kele on the importance of educating the next generation on responsible business, sustainability and diversity.