Call for Papers: Diversity at a Critical Juncture - New Theories For A Complex Phenomenon


Diversity at a Critical Juncture - New Theories For A Complex Phenomenon

Academy of Management Review Special Topic Forum

Submission Date: February 1-February 28, 2017

Guest Editors: Stella M. Nkomo, Myrtle P. Bell, Aparna Joshi, Laura Morgan Roberts, and Sherry Thatcher


Diversity research and practice are at a critical juncture, having reached  a "moment or certain window in time where there is a significant possibility of a decisive transition" from one state to another (Liu, Onar, & Woodward, 2014: 6). Significant shifts in societal and organizational contexts have brought to the fore several uneasy tensions and challenges in the discourse on diversity-tensions that management scholars are uniquely positioned to address. First, paradoxical tensions exist between indications of the acceptance of difference (e.g., same-sex marriage laws, adoption of diversity management policies in organizations, more women in leadership positions) and continuing subtle, and at many times quite overt, discrimination and harassment at work, as well as extreme resistance to diversity in the larger society. This suggests the need for theoretical frameworks linking the broader societal context to workplace diversity. Second, a growing body of work underscores the need to move toward theorizing about diversity in the workplace using a global perspective. A variety of factors, including immigration, transnationally linked markets, and the growth of emerging markets, indicate that we can no longer remain U.S. centric in our theories or approaches to diversity. Finally, workplace diversity research has generated more knowledge about the effects and processes of exclusion than knowledge of the mechanisms, processes, or practices that foster inclusion and equality in the workplace, particularly for people with marginalized social identities.


The societal and organizational tensions and challenges outlined above represent a "certain window in time" where we have the opportunity to take diversity theory and research from their current state-a state increasingly limited in its theoretical and practical reach-to one that is more attuned to the changing global scope and complexities associated with diversity. This special topic forum will help foster the next generation of scholarship on the full spectrum of diversity-related phenomena within and across organizations. Below we outline an illustrative but not exhaustive list of possible areas that would be a fit for the "critical juncture" focus of the special topic forum.


  • Cross-level and multilevel framing of diversity in organizations: Theory is needed that recognizes the permeability of societal and organizational boundaries and the implications of this permeability for shaping the form and consequences of diversity at meso and micro levels. Such a framing can inform empirical research on the linkages between the influence of macro contexts (e.g., national, community), organizational approaches, and individual experiences and perceptions of diversity among various stakeholders (e.g., employees, applicants, potential applicants who decide not to apply, customers, and community members). Such a framing can also help clarify ways in which organizational diversity can influence macrolevel contexts.
  • Theorizing inclusion and equality in organizations: Theory is needed that moves research beyond the causes and consequences of discrimination/diversity at the individual or group levels to actionable frameworks that identify ways to achieve inclusion and equality in the workplace. Particular attention should be given to features and characteristics of inclusive climates for valuing diversity and the critical roles for different organizational actors; expanded conceptualization of the positive outcomes of diversity beyond bottom-line financial impact; integration of cognitive and prejudice reduction theories with structural approaches to changing power and privilege dynamics and seemingly intractable inequality; specification of the underlying historical, structural, cultural, and social mechanisms that, on the one hand, inhibit or, on the other hand, foster inclusion; and surfacing the symbolic, discursive, and material processes for transforming social relations across diverse social identity groups.
  • Mainstreaming diversity: Diversity has largely been conceptualized and studied in isolation from "mainstream" management concepts and theories. Theoretical perspectives are needed that demonstrate the centrality of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other social identities, to key organizational constructs and theories. For example, employees' perceptions of justice in organizations may be affected by their group's history-and/or their personal and collective current experiences outside the organization. Such theories will assist in moving diversity from the periphery to the mainstream of theorizing about individual behavior and organizational processes and systems.
  • Globalizing the concept of diversity: Today's organizations operate globally and rely on processes that link markets and employees across global production systems and supply chains. This has changed the scope and substance of workplace diversity and what is required to understand transnational diversity and its effects. Theorizing is needed on the convergence and divergence of diversity policies and practices across national borders, the ways migration affects diversity and reactions to it, understandings of differences in intranational diversity management versus international diversity management, and the effects of national culture on diversity management and practices.
  • Complexity and fluidity of diverse identities: The meaning of diversity and diverse identities in organizations has become increasingly complex. Workplace diversity theory would benefit from theories that explain the complexities involved with multiple identities (e.g., intersections among race, ethnicity, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion, class). At the same time, theory is needed to understand how perceptions, values, and personal experiences with identities change and shift within individuals, groups, organizations, and the larger societal context. Theory would also benefit by expanding its current focus to include frameworks for understanding experiences of dominant groups by theorizing about whiteness, masculinity, heteronormativity, heterosexism, ableism, classism, and other "isms."



Liu, J. H., Onar, N. F., & Woodward, M. W. 2014. Symbologies, technologies, and identities: Critical junctures theory and the multi-layered nation-state. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 43: 2-12.


The deadline for submissions is February 28, 2017. All submissions must be uploaded to the Manuscript Central/Scholar One website ( between February 1, 2017 and February 28, 2017. Guidelines for contributors ( and the AMR Style Guide for Authors must be followed.

For questions about submissions, contact the managing editor via For questions about the content of this special topic forum, contact Stella Nkomo (, Myrtle Bell (, Aparna Joshi (, Laura Morgan Roberts (, or Sherry Thatcher (



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