Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 304–321 | Cite as

Institutional theory and the cross-national transfer of employment policy: the case of ‘workforce diversity’ in US multinationals



This paper uses a comparative institutionalist approach combined with a power/interests perspective to examine the processes whereby diversity policy is ‘internationalised’ by US multinational companies. It argues that the process of policy transfer to UK subsidiaries is complicated by incomplete and contested ‘institutionalisation’ of diversity within the US itself, and by differing conceptions of diversity between the US and the UK. The ability of actors within the UK subsidiaries to mobilise and deploy specific power resources allows them to resist the full implementation of corporate diversity policy, leading to a range of compromise accommodations. It is argued that the findings have more general implications for analysing the transfer of HR practices between national business systems.


US multinationals international HRM employee diversity policy transfer institutionalism 



The research on which this paper is based is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, Award no. R000238350. We are very grateful to our colleague on the US multinationals project, Tony Edwards, for his valuable comments on earlier drafts of the paper, and to other members of the research team, Peter Butler, Ian Clark, and Len Holden, for their contribution. We would also like to thank our colleagues in the German, Irish, and Spanish country teams, led by Hartmut Waechter (University of Trier), Paddy Gunnigle (University of Limerick), and Javier Quintanilla (IESE Business School), respectively, for access to interview data from the different country studies. Finally, we are most grateful to two anonymous JIBS reviewers for their focused and constructive comments, and to JIBS's Departmental Editor, Professor Mari Sako.


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Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Resource ManagementLeicester Business School, De Montfort UniversityUK

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