Managing diversity or managing for diversity in the corporatised educational organisation?

Year: 1999

Author: Blackmore, Jill, Sachs, Judyth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Equity debates in education need to be situated in the context of wider national policy agendas. Inherent in these reform agendas are contradictions between post modern discourses about enhancing diversity and choice to meet the needs of niche markets more flexibly through co-operation, quality, accessibility and efficiency on the one hand and the social conservatism of modernist management practices and the market on the other. EO policies in education particularly and the public sector generally have been re-defined and re-framed through key conceptual shifts during the 1990s-- from social justice, to EO, to equity, and now diversity. This paper focuses upon how notions of gender inequality have been redefined through the dissemination of a discourse of diversity in the context of the rise of conservative education politics. We map how the discursive shifts in policy texts to more instrumental and vocationally oriented notions of educational value mirror shifts in thinking about equity away from group disadvantage to equity through individual choice. This discourse has allowed institutions to maintain their image of being 'equal opportunity organisations' and even good corporate citizens although EO policies for women teachers and academics are, due to their marginalisation in strategic planning, management discourses and organisational practice, are in many instances more symbolic artefacts than expressionsn of new discursive practices. We signal some of the paradoxes which emerge between discourses of performativity and equity in institutional politics and practice, and how these are resolved by gender equity managers. We compare how 'newer' and more 'elite' institutions use equity within the market to gain comparative advantage. The irony is that equity requires greater regulation of the economic and deregulation of the social, while markets and the new management seek deregulation of the economic and regulation of the social to achieve corporate goals. The paper draws its empirical data from qualitative research undertaken in universities, TAFE and schools in three Australian state during a period of radical restructuring. It draws upon post structuralist notions of discourse and positionality and feminist theories of the state.