Newcastle University Business School

Event Item

The Paradoxical Repertoires of Diversity and Professionalism: Exploring Socio-Economic Diversity in the Elite Professions

Date/Time: Wednesday 29 November, 15:00 - 17:00

Venue: Room 2.08, Newcastle University Business School

Speakers: Louise Ashley and Hilary Sommerland

The subject of this paper is paradox. A growing body of management literature has focused on organisational paradox, within which a key question is its effect on organisational change. The current study contributes to this debate. Drawing on 51 interviews with professionals at ten leading law and accountancy firms, we explore how they understand and articulate the relationship between socio-economic diversity and professionalism, and how they manage the tensions that emerge. Professional service firms provide an interesting context in which to study paradox because they are currently presented with a clear dilemma: as external pressures to diversify on the basis of socio-economic background increase, their legitimacy as assessed by multiple stakeholders increasingly rests on demonstrating both exclusivity and inclusivity at once. Using an analytical method grounded in the critical discursive psychology approach, we show that diversity is framed by organisational actors in relation to a limited number of interpretative repertoires. Inconsistency within and between these repertoires may be interpreted as a form of hypocrisy and therefore viewed in negative terms. However, we argue that the ideological dilemmas that result may constitute an important resource, by offering new ways of talking about the relationship between professionalism and diversity, thus facilitating some progressive change.