Summary - Limits to Unity

Perceptions and appreciation of diversity and inclusiveness by Defence personnel

Original title: Grenzen aan de eenheid

The Dutch Ministry of Defence is committed to increasing diversity within the organisation. Personnel have no problem with the groups that are the target of this policy, but are also not avid supporters of the targeted promotion of diversity through specific policy. They do not see diversity as an added value in itself. This appears to correspond with the strong focus on unity: a strong sense of community with a perception of the functional utility of the unit. The affective engagement and satisfaction of personnel are accordingly high. At the same time, a tight-knit inward focus can lead to exclusion of perceived outsiders, in which colleagues who do not conform to the dominant culture within a unit or department find themselves subject to social sanctions. This applies for all personnel, but especially for those from minority groups.

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research¦SCP investigated the experiences of women, people from ethnic/cultural minorities and LGB persons in the Defence organisation. Although they display high levels of satisfaction and engagement, they also more often encounter negative experiences because their minority identity clashes with the dominant ‘masculine’ and ‘white’ norm.

About the authors
Iris Andriessen, Wim Vanden Berghe and Leen Sterckx engage in research on minorities at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research.