SWG 02: Pushing the Boundaries of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Theorizing Transformative Change in Organizations


Inge L. Bleijenbergh, Radboud University, The Netherlands
Laura Dobusch, WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Alexander Fleischmann, IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland
Zeynep Gülru Göker, Sabanci University Istanbul, Turkey
Koen Van Laer, Hasselt University, Belgium

This Standing Working Group (SWG) provides a platform for scholars interested in focusing on and advancing organizational theory in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion. The relevance of diversity, equity and inclusion for organization studies is indisputable in view of global inequalities and persistent manifestations of structural ableism/racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia on the one hand, and growing social movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo or Fridays for Future as well as simultaneously increasing resistance and mobilization against issues of diversity, equity and inclusion on the other hand (e.g., Amis et al., 2018; Bapuji et al., 2020; Nkomo et al., 2019; Ray, 2019). All of these phenomena are deeply connected to forms of organizing and their potential to reproduce, disrupt or transform the status quo to prefigure alternatives.

We are convinced that the individualist ontological stance dominating academic debates within management and organization studies (Janssens & Steyaert, 2019, 2020) might leave us poorly equipped to understand persistent and novel questions relating to diversity, equity and inclusion. Therefore, the SWG emphasizes collective approaches fostering solidarity in difference (Fleischmann et al., 2022). Hence, we want to create a base for vivid exchange and dialogue, and foster solidarity, among scholars of the EGOS community working on the intersection of organization studies and diversity, equity and inclusion. We want to strengthen and further develop organizational theory as an explanans for (persisting) organizational inequality regimes as well as avenues for transformative change within and through organizations.
Our onto-epistemological approach can be summarized as process-relational and critical. It is process-relational as it gives priority to the activities and relations that ongoingly create (our impression of stable) organizational entities (Barad, 2003; Chia, 2003). This implies to understand forms of discrimination and inequality as both affecting and resulting from how we organize our lives in the broadest sense of the word (Diedrich, 2016). Hence, issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are not perceived as brought into the “neutral container” (Janssens & Zanoni 2021) of the organization but as fundamentally co-constituted through forms of organizing.

Our approach is critical as we see power relations as central to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and acknowledge that both our conventional forms of organizing as well as corresponding (academic) knowledge production including research in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion itself – has been and continues to be tilted towards the able-bodied cis-hetero male white gaze. Consequently, in all SWG’s activities we strive for creating a space that particularly welcomes both scholars situated in and knowledge dealing with especially marginalized contexts such as disabling, indigenous, postcolonial or beyond-cisgender ones.
In practice this means to apply a both-and-approach to the SWG’s activities: a firm grounding in the insights of organizations as systemic and ongoing inequality regimes (e.g., Acker, 1990, 2006; Avent-Holt & Tomaskovic-Devey, 2019; Ray, 2019) while at the same time being open towards under-researched forms of exclusion and oppression; embeddedness in current critical scholarship on equity, diversity and inclusion while also recognizing the need to decolonize the field itself and embrace a broader range of perspectives and theories; a critical questioning of dominant approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion while also looking for new forms of equal and inclusive organizing from the start; embracing the well-established EGOS format of ‘closed’ sub-themes while simultaneously experimenting with new formats and opening up avenues for dialogue and outreach (also in hybrid settings).


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  • Acker, J. (2006): “Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations.” Gender & Society, 20( 4), 441–464.
  • Amis, J.M., Munir, K.A., Lawrence, T.B., Hirsch, P., & McGahan, A. (2018): “Inequality, Institutions and Organizations.” Organization Studies, 39 (9), 1131–1152.
  • Avent-Holt, D., & Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (2019): “Organizations as the building blocks of social inequalities.” Sociology Compass, 13 (2), 1–12.
  • Bapuji, H., Ertug, G., & Shaw, J. D. (2020): “Organizations and societal economic inequality: A review and way forward.” Academy of Management Annals, 14 (1), 60–91.
  • Barad, K. (2003): “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs, 28 (3), 801–831.
  • Chia, R. (2003): “Organization Theory as a Postmodern Science.” In: C. Knudsen & H. Tsoukas (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 113–140.
  • Diedrich, A. (2016): “Making humans and nonhumans talk in diversity research.” In: B. Czarniawska (ed.): A Research Agenda for Management and Organization Studies. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 69–78.
  • Fleischmann, A., Holck, L., Liu, H., Muhr, S.L., & Murgia, A. (2022): “Organizing solidarity in difference: Challenges, achievements, and emerging imaginaries.” Organization, 29 (2), 233–246.
  • Janssens, M. & Steyaert, C. (2019): “A Practice-Based Theory of Diversity: Respecifying (In)Equality in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review, 44 (3), 518–537.
  • Janssens, M., & Steyaert, C. (2020): “The Site of Diversalizing: The Accomplishment of Inclusion in Intergenerational Dance.” Journal of Management Studies, 57 (6), 1143–1173.
  • Janssens, M. & Zanoni, P. (2021): “Making Diversity Research Matter for Social Change: New Conversations Beyond the Firm.” Organization Theory, 2 (2), 1-21.
  • Nkomo, S., Bell, M.P, Roberts, L.M. Joshi, A. & Thatcher, S.M.B. (2019:) “Diversity at a Critical Juncture: New Theories for a Complex Phenomenon.” Academy of Management Review, 44, 498–517.
  • Ray, V. (2019): “A theory of racialized organizations.” American Sociological Review, 84 (1), 26–53.

About the Coordinators

Inge L. Bleijenbergh from Radboud University in the Netherlands is Full Professor of Action Research, in particular in the field of equality, diversity and inclusion. She received her PhD at VU University in Amsterdam and was a Visiting Professor at WU – Vienna University of Business and Economics, Austria, and at Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom. Inge published in the Journal of Management, Organization, Organization Studies, Gender Work & Organization, and Human Resource Management Review and was co-editor of the “Oxford Handbook of Diversity in Organizations”. She currently serves as Associate Editor of Gender, Work & Organization, and of Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management.

Laura Dobusch is a post-doc at the Institute for Change Management and Management Development at WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. Main areas of her research are: how organizations can become both more inclusive/open and sustainable and how respective policy approaches interact with each other; which opportunities, limits and also unintended consequences are linked to these change processes; and what transformation potential can be found in cross-organizational and cross-sector collaborations (e.g., open social innovation initiatives) in order to address major societal challenges (e.g., climate crisis). Laura’a work has been published in journals such as Gender, Work & Organization, Human Relations, Organization, and Organization Studies. Currently, she has the pleasure to be part of the Editorial Board of the journal Organization as well as the editorial team of the Zeitschrift für Diversitätsforschung und -management.

Alexander Fleischmann is Research Affiliate at IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland. He received his PhD in organization studies from WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria, researching diversity in alternative organizations. His research spans both deconstructive approaches like queer theory as well as prefigurative moves to organize solidarity in difference. Amongst others, Alexander published in Organization, Work, Employment and Society, Journal of Management and Organization, and Gender in Management: An International Journal.

Zeynep Gülru Göker is an Assistant Professor of Political Science. She received her PhD in Political Science from the City University of New York Graduate Center with a focus on political theory. Currently, she is a faculty member of gender studies and political science at Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey, and she is affiliated with the Sabanci University Gender and Women’s Studies Center of Excellence (SU Gender). Her research focuses on gender and politics, participatory and deliberative democracy, gender equality politics and ethics of care. Zeynep’s work has been published in a wide array of journals such as Gender, Societies and Education, European Journal of Women’s Studies, Action Research, Women’s Studies International Forum, Third World Quarterly, New Perspectives on Turkey, and Asian Journal of Women’s Studies. Her ongoing research projects focus on the impact of anti-g,ender mobilizations on feminist politics in local governance and youth participation in urban governance.

Koen Van Laer is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Business Economics of Hasselt University (Belgium), where he leads the research group SEIN – Identity, Diversity & Inequality Research. Drawing on critical perspectives, his work focuses on disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion at work, on the way workplace experiences and careers are connected to power inequalities, and on the way ‘difference’ is managed and constructed in organizations. Koen’s work on diversity, inequality and inclusion has appeared in edited volumes as well as in international journals such as Human Relations, Organization, Scandinavian Journal of Management, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, and Work, Employment and Society. He serves on the editorial boards of Organization and Human Relations.