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Putting diversity to work: An empirical analysis of how change efforts targeting organizational inequality failed

Lotte Holck (Department of Organisation, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 16 May 2016



The purpose of this paper is to critically explore why a diversity agenda in favor of equal opportunities failed despite apparent organizational support and commitment to diversity.


Drawing on data from a municipal center, this study inquire into how organizational dynamics of power and hierarchy influence change efforts to alter practices of inequality. The study is positioned within critical diversity research and structured around an analysis of the researcher’s fieldwork experiences.


The analysis examines into why change efforts failed despite organizational approval of a diversity agenda, open-mindedness toward change and legitimacy in regard to diversity. Paradoxically, change efforts designed to alter the status quo were, in practice, derailed and circumvented through power dynamics reproducing organizational inequality.

Research limitations/implications

A single case study in a particular type of organization constrains the generalizability but point to new directions for future research.

Practical implications

This study aims at sensitizing researchers and diversity practitioners alike to the organizational embeddedness of diversity initiatives. Accordingly, change efforts must necessarily address diversity in a situated perspective and as intersecting with key organizational power dynamics gaining impetus from macro discourses on diversity and difference.


Few critical diversity scholars engage with practitioners and reflect on the impact of their studies. In doing so, this paper contributes by developing diversity research, exploring the limitations and possibilities for increasing its relevance and impact.



Holck, L. (2016), "Putting diversity to work: An empirical analysis of how change efforts targeting organizational inequality failed", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 296-307.



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