An Exploration of the Role of ‘Community’ in the Search for Workforce Diversity at the Shipyard

Boothby, Gwen (2017) An Exploration of the Role of ‘Community’ in the Search for Workforce Diversity at the Shipyard. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The concept of workforce diversity has been considered from many perspectives. Based on the equality legislation, the ‘equal opportunities’ approach evolved, with the premise of moral concern (Noon and Ogbonna 2001) and equality (Cockburn 1991), where all individuals are treated the same by ensuring that ‘the rules of the game’ were fair. However, in the 1990s, a move was made to ‘managing diversity’ (Kandola and Fullerton 1994), a business case approach whereby equality was ensured by taking into account the circumstances of the individual. Although prevalent in organisational rhetoric, neither approach has fully realised its potential in terms of ensuring equality of opportunity or outcome for groups or individuals in the labour market (Miller 1996; Webb 1997; Liff 1999; Johns and Green 2009). Therefore, in this research project, other bodies of literature are used in conjunction with the equality and diversity research, to identify barriers to workforce diversity.

The case study on which this research project is based, is situated at a shipyard in Barrow-In-Furness, in the North West of England. The shipyard is part of BAE Systems, a global defence, aerospace and security company, which in 2009, stated its desire to increase the diversity of its workforce. The geography and demographics of Barrow meant that this was a particularly challenging concept for the shipyard. This research was based on qualitative semi-structured interviews with four groups of employees and trade union representatives, alongside documentary and data analysis.

The original contribution of this thesis has been made by considering three bodies of literature together (equality and diversity, masculine culture and occupational communities), in order to identify the key barriers to increasing the diversity of the shipyard. These barriers included the shipyard’s hegemonic masculine culture, the existence of occupational communities within the construction and engineering departments, and the impact of the local community on the diversity of the shipyard. Thus, it has been possible to identify that barriers to increasing the workforce diversity of the shipyard exist not only in the organisation, but also in Barrow’s local community.

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