Trade-offs and disappearing acts: Shifting societal discourses of diversity in Canada over three decades
In the past few decades, research on minority and disadvantaged groups in the workplace has focused on the discourse of diversity management; however, most of this research has emphasized individual and organizational discourse rather than broader, societal contexts. Our critical analysis of societal/macro level discourse explores the discursive constructions of equity and diversity in Canada, and provides original findings on how these discourses have been produced in the public sphere. We apply quantitative and qualitative textual analysis to articles published from 1986 to 2014 in The Globe and Mail, a nationally distributed newspaper, and the Canadian Employment Equity Act Annual Reports from 1988 to 2013. This paper describes a range of discursive patterns including those focusing on compliance-based equity oriented toward social justice as well as voluntarydiversity management’ grounded in corporate self-interest. It demonstrates important trade-offs in who is protected and promoted through the contrasting discourses, and in the types of actors legitimizing these discourses. We provide detailed evidence of these patterns by applying Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action, and conclude with a discussion of implications for practice and for theory that are suggested in our analysis.