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How Diversity Management makes a difference. A comparative study of how issues of ethnic and national diversity are managed in mass media organizations in Sweden and Germany

The development towards diversity in the working life is necessary both on the basis of globalization and as a human rights issue. Hence, the main issues of the project are: How do mass media organizations in Sweden and Germany manage diversity issues, such as issues of ethnic and national diversity? And does diversity management make a difference for developing a diversity focus in the media? Mass media have a large influence on what is considered to be a society contributing to equality in opportunities for all citizens. Research in this area has been dominated by normative, and also strongly structure-oriented and conflict-oriented theories as explanatory models. As an alternative, the project applies a theoretical and methodological approach, which today is usually described as Luhmann's systems theory. Systems theory is well suited for this type of study not at least due to the complex phenomena and societal conditions characterizing mass media. The system theoretical approach allows analyses from different perspectives, such as from the perspective of the media recipient, from the politician or, as in this project application, from an organizational perspective. Diversity management is as a management theory related to theories of organization and leadership and organizational culture, and therefore, we also work with theories in this field.The empirical data will come from interviews with people in leading positions and concerned with diversity issues and also from policy documents of the mass media organizations in Sweden and Germany. In line with the phenomenological approach, we analyze our empirical data from the perspective of the observer.


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In contrast to other branches, media companies are criticized as ‘lagging behind’ in becoming ethnically diverse, and they are too slow in making progress of diversity efforts (e.g. Horsti & Hultén, 2011; Graf, 2011; Markova & McKay, 2013, Horsti et al 2014). For example, when it comes to media professionals with migrant backgrounds, the numbers are very low: Only three percent of journalists have a migrant background according to a survey of the German Journalist Association in 2007 (Poettker 2013). Especially, black television journalists in Germany are rare. There are no news anchors of African origin, and there are only a few isolated cases of entertainment programs, where black journalists are in front of a camera.This paper examines how media companies assess the importance of this issue of diverse workforce. As I am especially interested in the workforce (and not in programming), I have mainly interviewed 10 HR managers and staff who are responsible for personnel development and diversity issues within German media organizations during the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014, and looked at their documented policies and diversity programs. In this paper, I focus on how HR managers, mainly from private media companies, observe the communication climate for diversity issues in their organization, and how they address recruitment obstacles.  More concretely, I want to explore, first, how the topic of a diverse workforce becomes an organizational problem (or not), and, second, which solutions appear and on the basis of which expectations.

AuthorPublishing yearSubject
Heike Graf

Research linked to the Baltic region and Eastern Europe



School of Culture and Education
Media and Communication Studies

Research area for doctoral studies

Critical and Cultural Theory



Project Manager

Heike Graf
Professor, Associate Professor
School of Culture and Education

People linked to the project

Jan Inge Jönhill, Örebro Universitet

More information

Project start: 2012
Project end: 2015

Financier: Östersjöstiftelsen

Research linked to the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe: Yes

Information på svenska

Subjects to which the project is linked

School/centre to which the project is linked

Research area for doctoral studies to which the project is linked