The Effect of Diversity Initiatives on an Inclusive Environment: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) In The Context of Copenhagen Business School

Mihika Deb & Emma Line Dalsgaard Øyås

Student thesis: Master thesis


As the demographics of our society are continuously evolving, the urgency of considering diversity and inclusion becomes increasingly prominent. Scholars within the field have highlighted the inherent link between the concepts of diversity and inclusion; however, the effect that diversity initiatives have on the inclusivity of the organisational environment is currently found to be insufficiently covered. The intention of this thesis is thus to take on a qualitative study that contributes its findings to extant literature on the concepts of diversity and inclusion in an organisational context. For this reason, this paper investigates the way in which diversity initiatives affect the perception of an inclusive environment. This paper takes its departure in the research context of Copenhagen Business School (CBS). In recent years, CBS has increased their efforts towards diversity and inclusion; therefore, CBS was deemed a suitable research context for investigating this paper’s research objective. In terms of the overall research design, the research methodology employed in this thesis was the interpretive phenomenological analytic (IPA) approach. The collected data used for analysis was comprised of 12 interviews in total with various organisational members from different levels within the research context. These interviews were grouped respectively into one group of interviewees who actively work with the diversity and inclusion agenda at CBS, and another group of interviewees who are organisational members of CBS, but who do not work actively with diversity and inclusion. As this study employs an interpretive phenomenological perspective, the research objective is examined in relation to perceptions of an inclusive environment as well as perceptions of CBS’ diversity efforts. This paper also adopts the abductive approach to theory development and aims to provide the most plausible explanation for linkages between the phenomena explored based upon the findings. Using the IPA methodology and Kvale’s levels of interpretation, the perceptions expressed in the conducted interviews were interpreted and discussed in relation to relevant theoretical perspectives. To examine the effect of diversity initiatives on the perception of an inclusive environment, we found the notions of diversity approach and diversity management relevant to consider as they establish the rationale and implementation of diversity initiatives with the aim enhancing inclusivity. Our most plausible explanation based on our findings is that diversity initiatives affect the perception of an inclusive environment by enhancing uniqueness and belongingness. Related to this, we found that the transparency of the diversity initiatives was a factor that affected how interviewees perceived inclusivity. Our findings concluded that within CBS, diversity initiatives were used to raise awareness and create understanding towards inclusion. Also, the diversity initiatives contribute towards an organisational vision of inclusion for future actions. More specifically, the initiatives positively affect the perception of an inclusive environment through equal opportunities and appreciation of uniqueness. CBS appears to place some focus on belongingness via the emphasis of commonality, but the primary focus currently pertains to the internalisation of uniqueness. Besides this thesis being relevant to contribute to current literature, it is also applicable in providing guidelines towards CBS’ future diversity efforts. Additionally, this study is methodologically applicable in the context of employing IPA in a study of organisational culture.

EducationsMaster of Business, Language and Culture, Intercultural Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages218