Through a critical review of the scientific literature and the analysis of Cranet data on the adoption of diversity management (DM) practices, this exploratory paper discusses cultural and institutional factors that influence the way in which DM practices are adopted and specific target groups are addressed in five European countries (Italy, France, Sweden, Germany and UK). It emerged that three different drivers lead organizations to adopt DM practices in a specific way according to some contextual peculiarities. The first one is the legislative and regulatory pressure in terms of equality and equal opportunities. The countries showing a long tradition of legislation on equal opportunities interpret DM as a form of legal compliance and not as a management method. The same is also true for disability, where in most cases the DM’s actions towards this target group are exclusively intended to meet law obligations. The second driver is connected to demographic change and cultural influences. In particular, despite having a very divergent economic and employment contexts, Italy and Germany are similar on some specific cultural dimensions (gender egalitarianism and power distance) and are both oriented towards managing gender issues and younger workers at the expense of older workers. The third driver is related to the lack of knowledge and skills in the local labor market that brings companies to attract skilled labor force from abroad and to retrain low-skilled workers.
Keywords: Diversity, diversity management, culture, institutionalism, Europe, Cranet