Behind the Scenes of Ph.D Training with Julien Doris
Tell us about your research project (a summary and the results)
The title of my thesis is “Diversity as an organisational field: the case of employment equity managers in Government of Canada departments and agencies”. Research in public administration has mainly addressed the issue of diversity management through the prism of bureaucratic representations. Despite the fact that earlier work in this field has highlighted the importance and effectiveness of these mechanisms, there are still too few studies out there that examine their institutionalisation and application to organisational management systems. In addition to the various generations of debates and literature on diversity, there is also the emerging issue of EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) as a new area of management in the public sector.
Therefore, my doctoral thesis focuses on the historical organisation of the field of diversity management in Canadian central government departments and agencies, and more specifically on the turning point that led to the emergence and institutionalisation of EDI in the public sector. This research goes beyond the focus on the influence of new norms and practices. Instead, it is centred around the federal employment equity managers. Moreover, it emphasises the dynamics of formation, evolution, and tension in organisational fields, and how they could also promote the creation of new 'professions'.
After closely examining the government archives, the ministerial strategic plans and conducting a field survey with some thirty federal managers, my research documents the management processes in selected organisations. The study shows an incremental evolution in the institutionalisation of new standards, practices, and managerial functions starting from 1995 since the implementation of Employment Equity Legislation in the federal public service. This gradual change, from a single reactive approach to a multidimensional and proactive concept of employment equity that integrates the notions of equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels, is reflected in the exploration of existing and emerging administrative processes.
The results demonstrate that the organisational fields can foresee the emergence of different forms of dynamics or institutional tensions: dynamics of professionalisation (the formation of a new body of EDI managers); dynamics of empowerment (the propensity to translate and adapt EDI frameworks to their own organisational reality, despite the same institutional arrangements); rationalisation dynamics (the performative function of EDI through the implementation of new indicators and changes over time of management control tools and procedures); politicisation dynamics (the reconfiguration of the lines of division of responsibility between political actors and public management professionals).
What inspired you to pursue your work in the cultural sector?
It was a long process. Back in my Master of Arts degree, I already had a thesis subject related to the diversity of public administration management using a more comparative approach. It examined how France and Belgium, and Canada defined 'diversity' in their politics and policies on diversity and representation. I thought it would be important to study how these diversity concepts and policies were organizationally applied in their respective contexts, going beyond simply understanding the high-level macro questions like definitions, obligations, and how diversity is considered a fundamental issue in a country's public administration. I was specifically interested in how these concepts and obligations translated between the micro and meso actors, what practices were developed to ensure a more representative public service, and how the environment was transformed to ensure a more diverse working culture.
The MA opened the door for these new questions to be pursued in my Ph.D. I was always interested in these issues of diversity, even during my BA, where I worked on papers and research concerned with the politics of equity and equality. I was even involved with an association in France providing a mentorship program to help high school students to be prepared for university. I myself benefited from these services in the past as well.
What’s next? Any plans to continue working in the cultural sector?
A Postdoc that focuses more deeply on culture - such as one concentrated on EDI in public organisations that might be more directly related to culture. For example, the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications and their projects and programs for artists. I have been linked with a lot of cultural work and research (with Jonathan Paquette and Julie Berube) and student colleagues
From the Quebec side, it would be interesting to see how they interpret diversity from a management level. How do they address the differences? Is there a specific plan or a structural policy? What has been done in the past? What were the priorities? My work has been more public administration focused; but, I would like to delve more into the cultural elements of diversity and management.
Any unique opportunities during your time at uOttawa?
Quite a few! Firstly, I attended many conferences and events with the support from my research supervisor, who unlocked these possibilities for me. My first conference was about cultural policy research in Canada and Quebec. It was organized by Jonathan Paquette (2019 CoG - Cultural Research Network) and it was a great experience! It connected many cultural researchers from all over Canada. This was my first presentation in front of an important network of experts in cultural policy research! Then, there was another conference on cultural itineraries and roads. This theme led to a collected research book - Cultural Roads and Itineraries: Concepts and Cases, edited by Jonathan Paquette, Aurélie Lacassagne and Christophe Alcantara in 2021.
The CoG was also quite helpful in encouraging students to participate and become engaged in many network events and conferences, despite the limitations of the pandemic. This is crucial, as you need to move beyond the solitary experience of research and become exposed to the collective element of academia through networking and collegial engagement. Also the opportunity to build experience through teaching was valuable.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has created dynamic changes within the campus environment. As an international student, there were different difficulties too; but, the school and the faculty were supporting and pushing students to challenge themselves. We were always well guided and assisted throughout our academic journey.
Furthermore, there were many other international students in my cohort, and there was a lot of student solidarity as we worked together, even if it was remotely. It was helpful to be in contact with my colleagues and not hesitate if something was needed. The student association was also helpful by organising conferences and networks to support students and help them build experience.
Recommendations for current or future students?
Don’t refuse opportunities! The School of Political Studies has done a lot of work to encourage us to teach a course. There is a lot of hesitation among students as they fear that taking on more workload and duties might reduce their time and prolong their thesis work. I don’t agree with this idea. The Ph.D. programme is not just the research experience alone. It is also about the social experiences that come with teaching and networking. We must take advantage of the chances and not refuse these opportunities! Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on your thesis.
Any cultural space/activity you’d recommend for people to visit/view? Any cultural spaces/activities you’d like to visit next?
We are very lucky! We have a big variety of museums, a rich history and a diverse culture here in Ottawa/Gatineau. Moreover, there are some good opportunities to visit them on free days (Thursdays, or holidays). I would particularly recommend paying a visit to The National Gallery of Canada and The Canadian Museum of History.
To visit next? Too many to name! Both in Ottawa, but particularly in Quebec. There is a lot to visit. A new museum will soon open its doors in the national capital region: le Musée régional de l'Outaouais. I can't wait to discover this new museum.