Executive Director, Workplace Studies Centre, Victoria University
Research Fellow, Workplace Studies Centre, Victoria University
In Australia, we have seen a range of governments, federal and
state, promoting the business benefits of productive diversity.
This is the notion that companies can extract a 'diversity dividend'
from their multicultural workforce by using their linguistic
and cultural capital for exporting and domestic marketing purposes.
Sometimes these promotions include some reference to the superiority
of diverse work teams and the need to reflect the Australian
population. Recently, the National Multicultural Advisory Council
has made productive diversity a national priority issue, requiring
proactive action and education and training initiatives. But
how much we do know about the way productive diversity is implemented
in practice? How do we get beyond the glossy promotional literature
and assess the actual dynamics at the workplace? Is productive
diversity really happening? What exactly are the benefits and
what, if any, are the problems?
Previous research has shown that a minority of Australian
businesses have adopted policy strategies in this area (Bertone
et. al, 1998). More recent research by the authors involved conducting
detailed case studies in two organisations which had advanced
diversity management strategies. One used the bilingual and bicultural
skills of managers to service ethnic niches within the domestic
market. The other treated diversity holistically and emphasised
the participation of all individuals within the organisation's
decision making. The results were surprisingly different. Both
programs suggested there were clear benefits in harnessing cultural
diversity, but equity problems remained for minority ethnic groups
in both organisations. In the first, ethnic stereotyping and
a lack of policy coherence was evident, in the latter, ethnicity
had become invisible due to the large range of individual differences
canvassed within the policy.
Santina Bertone is Executive Director of the Workplace Studies
Centre, Victoria University. She has led numerous research projects
and specialised in research on immigrants, women, cultural diversity
and the labour market. Santina has published extensively in this
area, including six books, numerous papers, articles and contract
reports. Her most recent book in this area is Diversity and Dollars
(1998, with Alexis Esposto and Rod Turner). She has recently
completed detailed case studies on diversity management for a
consortium of agencies, and is an executive member of the Ethnic
Communities Council of Victoria.
Mary Leahy is a research fellow at the Workplace Studies Centre,
Victoria University and is currently completing a masters degree
in Asian studies at Victoria University. She has significant
experience in the higher education sector and has also worked
for the Health Industry Training Board and the Office of the
State Training Board in Victoria.
30 min paper