Economic Geography Research Group

Fostering research in Economic Geography

Download Working Paper 01.08 (PDF, 305KB).

2008 Working Papers

Working Paper 01.08

The difficulty with diversity: white and aboriginal women worker’s representations of diversity management in forest processing mills

Suzanne Mills


Diversity management, the promotion of diverse workforces as a way to increase firm competitiveness, has gained popularity as a human resource strategy in firms across the United States and Canada. This paper critically examines diversity management in a multinational forest company's operations in the northern prairies of Canada from the situated perspectives of white and Aboriginal women workers. Drawing on insights from theories of intersectionality, I highlight three ways that women's experiences can inform our understanding of corporate practices to include historically marginalized workers. First, differences among women's narratives about diversity management related to whether they were unionized and to whether they were white or Aboriginal highlight how local structures and constructions of difference and sameness ensure a non-uniform implementation of workplace practices among workers. Second, white women's representations of practices to include Aboriginal people used both concepts of sameness and difference to reproduce racist norms, underscoring the need to move beyond seeing white women working in forestry as only in oppressed subject positions. Last, women's representations suggest that by delineating difference as human capital attributes, diversity management compartmentalizes difference, not allowing for the ways that women's experiences of unequal power relations are structured by interlocking categories of difference, positions that may require collective rather than individualized redress.