Privileging Either An Equal Opportunities Or Business Commerce Essay


It will be argued in this paper, the consequences of privileging equal opportunities or business case base in work organizations by considering the current findings, theories of both approaches, analyzing different authors views, as well as considering whether or not what is been said in theory is effective in practice by looking at examples from a chosen company (Tesco Ireland) and then reaching a conclusion as to which approach is better and why.

Equal opportunities stress the importance of treating people equally irrespective of their sex or ethnic background. Its main objective is that individuals should be appointed or rewarded on the basis of job-related criteria and that their sex or origin should not serve as relevant criteria to their favour or to their disadvantage (Liff, 1999).

The shift to managing diversity came as a result of complain from activist, practitioners and employers about the effectiveness and achievement of equal opportunities policy especially in the UK (e.g. Wilson, 1995). Ross and Schneider (1992:36) suggested that employers have rejected the EO legislation as it is perceived as been imposed upon them. Hence, it is argued that EO needs to be seen as business driven in order to encourage other employers. Managing diversity is suggested as a new way forward (Kandolla and Fullerton, 1994; IPD, 1996). However, Liff and Dickson (2000) have argued that the business case / social justice divide might pose a false dilemma, such that the two can be the same in organizations and may be reconcilable in theory. What is apparent is that managing diversity approach is based upon the business case for equal opportunities.

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According to Kandola and Fullerton 1998:8, the basic concept of managing diversity accepts that the workforce consists of diverse population of people. This diversity comprise of both visible and non visible differences which will include factors such as age, sex, background, race, gender, disability and work style. It is founded on the premises that harnessing these differences will create a productive environment in which everybody feels valued and where talents are being fully utilized and in which organizational goals are being met (Kirton and Greene, 2005). The business case is linked to the strategic HRM principle where the full utilization of human resources is seen to give a company competitive edge (Storey, 1995).

However, the more diverse an organization, the more tension exist in the organization (Cornelius, 2010 lecture). As the call for employee diversity increases, so do the need for effective interaction among diverse employees, the potential for conflict among them and the urgency to manage not just attain required diversity (Schneider and North Craft, 1999).

In managing diversity, the capabilities theory is concerned with enhancing quality of life, through widening people's freedom and choices. From the capabilities perspective, for an organization to achieve equality among its members every individual should be respected, has the possibility to engage in dialogue and the organizational environment should be stable and offers employment continuity and career development (Gagnon and Cornelius, 2002).

The Rawlsian theory emphasises practices grounded on rights and procedural justice. This has a strong presence in HRM which focuses on fairness in practice.

As a result of EO policy, the inclusion of women in management position will be beneficial to the organization as they will be able to nurture and empower staffs to take risk in the pursuit of corporate goals. It is argued that transformational leadership is associated traditionally with women (Cassell, 1997). However, Liff, 1996 argues that EO tends to increase discrimination rather than equality, EO focuses mainly on women, ethnic minorities and disabled (Kandolla and Fullerton, 1994; Collins and Wray-Bliss, 2000). Kandolla and Flullerton(1994) argues that EO needs to be questioned because while it benefitted some groups others were excluded.

The EO policies through the equal claims have helped organizations look into previously unquestioned payment systems. Research suggest that EO is not effective in ensuring unbiased decisions as managers find it difficult to disentangle decisions based on gender and ethnic stereotypes ( Collinson, Knights and Collinson, 1990; Curran, 1988; Jewson et al., 1990). In practice, it has become highly difficult to evaluate schemes without gender bias (see for example Kahn and Meehan, 1992). This view is also supported by Burton (1991) arguing that it is impossible for an evaluator to compare jobs done by women and men abstractly.

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According to Cox (1993) moral, legal and economic performance factors are the types of organizational goals that can be achieved by managing diversity. The main motivation towards managing diversity is derived from operational; business needs such as improve productivity, competitiveness or customer relations (Bendick et al, 2001; Noon and Ogboona, 2001; Wentling and Palma-Rivas, 1998).

A diverse workplace creates increase in attracting and attaining the most qualified candidates (Williams and Bauer, 1994). In contrast, Schmidt and Hunter (1998) argue that an increase in diversity of a group at the demographic level in terms of age, gender, race and disability does not guarantee an increase in diversity task related knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences. Research from industrial and organizational psychology has yielded or provided variety of standardized techniques shown to be productive of job performance such as mental ability, biological data, personality inventories rather than using demographical diversity as an alternative for talent diversity (Jayne and Dipboye, 2004).

Companies with diverse workforce can experience higher creativity and innovation. When people of diverse cultures come together to solve a problem or come up with an idea, they are able to reach a solution. This allows for different cultures to bring insightful alternatives to the table (Lee, 2000). The more diverse an organization the greater their chances to create these new ideas and this new ideas enhances increase in productivity (Aghazedeh, 2004; Eddy and Burke, 2005).

Some research has also showed that diversity in work place can also result to communication breakdown, low cohesion and turnover (Milliken and Martins, 1996; Williams and O'Reilly, 1998 cited in Kochan et al, 2003). This is also supported by Neck et al (1997). Hence, there is increase in conflicts, conflict arise largely due to ignorance. Prejudice feelings or derogatory comments can cause a lack of acceptance. This can create negative results such as ethnocentrism, stereotyping and culture clashes (White, 1999.

A multicultural company will be able to penetrate and widen the market due to their knowledge of political, social, legal, economic and cultural environment (White, 1999). If organizations have individuals who can negotiate and speak the language of the countries they do business with, it will serve as an asset to such organization. For example, Chevrolet's experience in Latin America, producing a car called 'Nova' which means 'does not go' in their language and indeed affected their success within the Latin communities. This could have been prevented if the organization had a diverse ethnic workforce (Dibble, 2001).

In contrast, diverse ethnic workforce may create room for reverse discrimination. Reverse discrimination is a claim by white that they have been unfairly discriminated against, they claim that they are more or equally qualified for the position but were by passed for a minority to receive the job. For example, the famous Blakke's case rejected two years in row by a medical school that had experienced less qualified minority applicants (Brunner, 2003).

What is been said in theory about equal opportunities and managing diversity is not necessarily what is applicable in practice. The 'glass ceiling' issue is an area that must be looked into in Tesco Ireland. Morrison, White and Val Velsor (1987:13) defined this concept as a 'transparent barrier that keeps women away from rising above a certain level in corporations'. Myerson and Fletcher (2000) explain that no matter what type of organization, most people are generally not aware of the issues associated with the glass ceiling. Research done by Guy and Newman, (2004); Arfken, Bellar and Helson (2004); and Ryan and Exeter (2007) revealed that it still exists. Ryan and Exeter (2007) argue that women are still not favoured as compared to men in the management roles.

In the case of Tesco Ireland as suggested by Gilbert and Ivancevich (2010) equal opportunities and managing was not been well managed but was preached about as part of their success which was not applied in real terms because female gender was discriminated against following the Charity Aid Foundation claims that Tesco Ireland accepts supplies from a South African Farm that treated female workers badly and offering them appalling wages, this shows that Tesco Ireland does not consider equal opportunities for workers who work for their suppliers. Also 57% of Tesco employees in the UK are female but only 16% of the total workforce are females store managers (Tesco diversity profile), this shows that female workers are disadvantaged in getting to the top and indicates the presence of 'glass ceiling' in the organization.

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Equal opportunities policy in Tesco Ireland emphasises treating people equally irrespective of their ethnic origin. In practice according to Gilbert and Ivancevich (2010) some agency workers from polish origin were been paid lower salary compared to the non-polish workers and had lower chances of been converted to full time workers. Two polish workers were sacked because they complained of the poor working condition in Tesco Ireland. All these issues implies that in theory equal opportunities and diversity approach is said to work but in practice this is not the case, as Gilbert and Ivancevich (2010) concluded that Tesco Ireland has good policy in place but lacks proper implementation mechanisms.

In conclusion, in my opinion privileging business case (managing diversity) is preferable to equal opportunities as it does not concentrate on groups but on individual differences hence, there is less room for discrimination if properly managed. Individual needs and desires are recognised which allows people to work more effectively. Rather than EO where some group is at an advantage at the expense of the other group, this can be 'justified' if it can be shown that such decision is not based on sex or race. For example, offering a job on a full time basis even when it is recognized that it is difficult for a woman to undertake such job (Liff, 1997). However, managing diversity is like a two faced coin as recent surveys by (Bowers, Pharmer and Sales, 2000; Webber and Danahue, 2001) has made many researchers to view diversity as a 'double-edged sword' (Milliken and Martins, 1996). This means it can produce both positive and negative consequences, in the short run privileging diversity in work place might produce negative results but as time goes on and with proper management process of managing diversity initiatives, in the long run it will produce positive results.



As the largest private sector employer in Ireland, South Korea and the UK, we provide diverse opportunities for 470,000 people worldwide ranging from positions on the shop floor, to roles for managers, buyers, accountants and lawyers.

Diversity and Inclusion

We aim to make everyone feel welcome regardless of their age, gender, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We strive to reflect the customers we serve at all levels of the business. Diversity is part of our business, our diversity council consist of directors from across the business, and chaired by Retail and Logistics director. We focused on employing local people and developing local leaders in each country. 350 out of 185,000 people we employ internationally are from the UK business: which comprise of 47% of our country operating boards and 57% of directors are locals.

We work to positively attract and develop people with disabilities. People of all ages are welcomed to Tesco; we employ people in their 70's and 80's and do not have retirement age but stick to retirement age in countries where it is compulsory.

At Tesco we want to see women do well just like men, there are three women in our board of directors.

We are proud of our diversity, among the UK retailers we have the most socially diverse customer base and we want our workforce to mirror the communities we serve.