Culturewise Practice: From Managing Diversity to Practicing Inclusion

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Ressia, Susan

Houghton, Luke

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Boyle, Maree

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This research endeavour, through the use of qualitative methodology and methods explores practitioner involvement in three Managing Diversity (MD) consultancy cases. As such, the thesis represents a social constructionist and interpretivist qualitative study where autoethnography provides the overall framing for the approach (Boyle & Parry, 2007; Chang, 2008; Denzin, 2006; Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011; Holman Jones, 2005). Reflexivity provides the means through which a systematic three-phased analysis is conducted (Alvesson, Hardy, & Harley, 2008; Cunliffe, 2004; Cunliffe & Jun, 2005; Hibbert, Coupland, & MacIntosh, 2010). Two lenses frame the analysis – that is, MD and sensemaking, in order to explore three consultancy cases which revolved around training to enhance individual and organisational capabilities to respond to workplace and client diversity. In addition, the study explicates and explores the emergence and evolution of the Culturewise Practice (CWP) methodology that underpinned these initiatives. This study is located within the broader context of Australian MD practice and revolves around providing insights into what happens when people in organisations engage in MD initiatives, more specifically it provides insight into the influence of the Business Case/Social Justice dichotomy and the three dilemmas of sameness/difference, group/individual and change catalyst/status quo as outlined in the MD literature (Holvino & Kamp, 2009: Tatli & Özbilgin, 2012; Ghorashi & Sabelis 2013) on MD initiatives in practice. As such, the study provides insights into the following research questions: • How are the complexities in the MD literature enacted in MD approaches in Australia as represented by the three cases? • What does a focus on sensemaking reveal about participants in organisational MD initiatives as demonstrated by the three cases? • How can sensemaking be theorised as a foundation for practicing inclusion? • How can organisations shift from MD to practicing inclusion? Therefore, the thesis reveals individual and organisational sensemaking processes that are embedded in MD initiatives and it explores and provides examples of what happens when people in organisations engage in such initiatives. It proposes and outlines how the work concerned with diversity is different from the work concerned with inclusion. Subsequently, it provides considerations and a Principles based Framework for Practicing Inclusion based on sensemaking for organisations and practitioners to use when focusing on the dynamics that are created when diverse people in organisations interact. The Framework enables organisations and practitioners to develop a strategic approach to inclusion in organisations, thereby balancing the business and social justice cases, renegotiating the three dilemmas and articulating in practice the difference between diversity work and inclusion work. Thus, this framework provides a means by which organisations can begin to shift from MD to practicing inclusion. Contributions are further made to the sensemaking body of literature by providing examples of sensemaking in the context of organisational MD initiatives in Australian organisations. Specifically, examples of how ambiguity (fear) and equivocality (curiosity) responses to diversity influence individual and organisational dynamics. This is important as it outlines how understanding these forces can influence the design of organisational MD initiatives to achieve change within this context.

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Thesis (Masters)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dept Empl Rel & Human Resource

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Managing diversity

Sensemaking processes

Practicing inclusion

Australian organisations

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