Pre-conference “Diversity and Inclusion in Organizational Communication”

ETMAAL 2024 – Erasmus University Rotterdam

On February 8, the divisions Intercultural Communication and Diversity (IC&D) and Organizational Communication (OrgComm) joined hands to organize a pre-conference about ‘Diversity and Inclusion in Organizational Communication’. About twenty participants joined the pre-conference in Rotterdam. We started out with a presentation from Dr. Anna Berbers (UvA) about her research on ‘pinkwashing’. She discussed experimental and qualitative research on corporate social advocacy (CSA) of organizations on LGBTQIA+ related topics and how CSA-communication is received in light of perceptions of pinkwashing, authenticity and organizational legitimacy. She shared interesting findings as well as challenges, such as the notion of ‘rainbow fatigue’. Next, we welcomed practitioner Wendy Broersen, founder of the Superpeople Company, which helps companies to attract, retain and develop a diverse workforce. She wrote the book ‘NOT for HR’, which was recently nominated for management book of the year. She shared her practitioner point of view on the opportunities and challenges related to diversity in the workplace, as well as how to communicate about that topic. Third and finally, Pytrik Schafraad (Tilburg University) presented the research he has conducted with Joep Hofhuis (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences). They have developed computational methods, which enable them and their colleagues to analyze different types of strategic diversity communication by organizations (e.g., in annual reports).

Questions were asked after each presentation, and the panel was concluded by an interesting discussion. Aspects that were discussed were, among others, the potential discrepancy between organizations’ public statements regarding diversity on the one hand and the perceptions of individual employees on the other hands. In that regard, the potential difference in perspectives and experiences between employees who live and work in a city and those who live and work in more rural areas also emerged. Organizations should not forget to listen to their employees, and must remember that an organization cannot truly speak for all its employees. It is not because an organization stresses the importance of diversity, that employees will automatically endorse that message in practice. We also discussed the role, the importance and the impact of intention, in both practice and research. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so what do we do about those intentions in diversity research? One final element that emerged during the discussion, was to take into account diversity in media exposure as well. Companies can say all kinds of things about the importance of diversity in the workplace, but all too often the managers and employees who speak on behalf of companies in the press do not reflect that diversity.