Data collection, the author conducted semi-structured, “in-depth interviews” with minority female participants (p. 102). However, the study was broad enough to also include input from white females, white males, and ethnic minority males. A total of twenty organizations were contacted, all of which publically proclaimed their commitment to ethnic diversity in the workplace. This is because “the broader study aimed to…examine whether reality matched the rhetoric of equality of opportunity within organizations,” (p. 102). Of the twenty contacted, only three granted the interviewers access; and one of those three withdrew later. That organization claimed it was “restructuring,” which would imply that its public relations department understood full well the ramifications of exposing potential problems among its workforce. Moreover, the author did interview managers at the only two organizations that agreed to participate formally in the research. RetailCo. And Health Trust managers were interviewed to offer their perceptions of organizational policies and practices. In other organizations, managers might have been silenced or intimidated. This reflects poorly on the organizational cultures in companies that otherwise claim to offer equal opportunity.
Independent groups of participants were also recruited to fill out the bulk of the population sample. The independents could be anyone from a domestic worker to a doctor. Therefore, social class or status variables were not factored into the final discussion with any depth. The desire to participate in the study could have been motivated by personal vested interest in promoting scholarly research. Perhaps professional women were more likely to be interviewed because they have thought critically about gender issues. The author also points out that the independent groups enhanced the “richness” of the data because they reveal the diversity of work experiences and conditions for minority women.
Formal access could not be gained for a number of public relations reasons. If the results of the study revealed that the organization in question was not fulfilling its commitment to ethnic diversity, then it would reflect poorly on the company. To protect its reputation and image, the companies denied access. Essentially, though, denial of access was like an admission of guilt. Perhaps if the researcher guaranteed organizational anonymity, more companies might have granted access.
The differences between participants in organizations granting formal access and participants from the independent worker group might be due to organizational constraints on behavior. Yet even among the “independents,” a patriarchal social structure could still confine their attitudes and answers to interview questions. Therefore, there might be more similarities and differences between those who work in the organizations and those who were deemed “independent.” The workers in organizations granting formal access might certainly have felt more taciturn when answering questions. Fearful of saying something they might regret later because it could result in job loss, these participants might not have been as frank as those who were independent. Even if the researcher might have been able to draft a contract whereby the organization ensured that participants’ responses would have no impact on their work status, such a contract would be difficult to enforce. Therefore, the independent participants could would be predicted to be slightly more honest overall.
Other differences are related to organizational structure and culture. Individuals working for an organization with a formal hierarchy would experience the dependent variables (work-life conflict variables) differently from women who worked in other sectors. The researcher interviewed some minority female professionals, for example, who might be self-employed and in charge of their own income-earning potential. The responses from women such as these would be starkly different from those working low wages in a formal organization. Work-life conflict issues might be similar, but the reasons for the conflict would be different. Whereas some of the women working in formal organizations admitted socialization pressures to act “like men” in order to be recognized for their leadership potential, some of the women working independently might have more freedom to choose their leadership styles.
Most likely, the author does not identify with being white. Her personal experiences might have shaped her research questions and prompted the current study. The researcher’s sensitivity to issues related to gender and ethnicity also reveals her familiarity with the subject. She understood which questions to ask, and what types of populations to sample in order to study this subject.
The discussion and conclusion sections offer suggestions for managers. It is also likely that the author has worked in an organization that constrained her personal life. A lack of awareness of the problems associated with constraining workers’ personal life can lead to poor performance on many variables. By framing a diversity issue as a problem for management, the author does a good job of showing why companies should do more than pay lip service to their equal opportunity policies. Equal opportunity policies cannot stop at numerical counts of non-whites on the payroll. A true equal opportunity employer recognizes the cultural and gender variables that ensure workplace happiness and employee satisfaction.
“Gender Diversity in the Workplace.” Retrieved online: http://www.analytictech.com/mb021/gender.htm
Kamenou, Nicolina. Reconsidering Work — Life Balance Debates: Challenging Limited Understandings of the ‘Life’ Component in the Context of Ethnic Minority Women’s Experiences. British Journal of Management 19(2008).
Konrad, A.M. Special Issue Introduction: Defining The Domain Of Workplace Diversity Scholarship. Group Organization Management 28(1): 2003
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