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Unions as institutional entrepreneurs: The contribution of unions to the diffusion and adaptation of LGBT diversity initiatives

Simone Pulcher (Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali e Politiche, Universita degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Marco Guerci (Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali e Politiche, Universita degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Thomas Köllen (Departement Betriebswirtschaftslehre, IOP, Universitat Bern, Bern, Switzerland)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 9 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Research on the diffusion and adaptation of LGBT diversity management practices has, until now, rarely considered the role of unions in this process; where it has done, the consideration has largely been cursory or tangential. In order to contribute towards overcoming this research gap, the purpose of this paper is to focus more closely on this issue, within the Italian context.

Design/methodology/approach

Theoretically based on the notion of institutional entrepreneurship, the paper analyses the ways in which trade unions contribute to the diffusion of LG-inclusive policies. Empirically this study is based on qualitative interviews with representatives from the unions, LGBT activists and individuals from those companies that have received support from the unions in terms of shaping their initiatives.

Findings

Italian unions act as institutional entrepreneurs in the sexual orientation field by framing the issue of the inclusion of LGBT workers as an issue of including minority groups under the broad umbrella of equality in workplaces, and by cooperating with LGBT associations. The latter provides the unions with two different things. First, with more legitimacy, from the viewpoint of LGBT employees; second, with the specific competencies in dealing with these issues. The accomplishments of the unions consist of arranging single agreements concerning the establishment of “punishment systems” for discriminatory behaviours, rather than promoting inclusion-oriented behaviours within the organization.

Originality/value

This paper highlights the role of unions, and in doing so, focusses on a hitherto marginalized actor in the process of adapting LGBT diversity initiatives. In focussing on the Italian context, it adds an important perspective to a discourse that has previously consisted of predominantly Anglo-American views.

Keywords

Citation

Pulcher, S., Guerci, M. and Köllen, T. (2019), "Unions as institutional entrepreneurs: The contribution of unions to the diffusion and adaptation of LGBT diversity initiatives", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 477-490. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2018-0332

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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