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Workforce gender diversity: Is it a source of competitive advantage?

Muhammad Ali, University of Melbourne
Isabel Metz, University of Melbourne
Carol T. Kulik, University of South Australia

Abstract

Research on workforce diversity at the organisational level gained momentum in the 1990s, because of the growing trend in HR research to link HR practices with organisational performance. The new parallel wave of research focused on the business case for diversity, in which diversity was linked to organisational performance. However, the results of these studies, mainly focusing on linear diversity-performance relationships, have been inconsistent. Based on contrasting theories, this paper proposes three competing predictions of the gender diversity-performance relationship at the organisational level: a positive linear relationship derived from the resource-based view of the firm, a negative linear relationship derived from self-categorisation and social identity theories, and a U-shaped curvilinear relationship derived from the integration of the resource-based view of the firm with self-categorisation and social identity theories. The U-shaped relationship accounts for the inconsistent findings in past research, because different proportions of men and women produce different social dynamics that have different effects on organisational performance. Further, the proposed U-shaped relationship can have different slopes in the manufacturing and services industries. The paper contributes to the field of diversity by strengthening its weak theoretical foundations and by highlighting the industry differences.

Suggested Citation

Muhammad Ali, Isabel Metz, and Carol T. Kulik. "Workforce gender diversity: Is it a source of competitive advantage?" Proceedings of the 21st ANZAM Conference (2007).

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