The current literature yields contrasting diagnoses of the diversity problem in the professions: (a) a dominant ‘absence’ view, which explains the exclusion of certain people as a lack to be rectified and (b) an alternative ‘presence’ view, which explains exclusion as a consequence of tacit inclusion. Although the latter challenges the former by exposing the historical interdependence of exclusion and inclusion, it fails to illuminate a path towards contemporary inclusion. This article develops a third, dialectical, view, which theorizes the inclusivity-exclusivity relation as a contemporary crisis of representation managed through occupational branding. The proposed stance mediates between the optimism of the absence view and the scepticism of the presence view by placing historical formations in undetermined tension with contemporary exigencies. By analysing how specific inclusivity-exclusivity tensions are confronted through strategic interventions in the marketplace of occupational identity, the dialectical view stands to generate novel possibilities for social change.