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Why Companies' Diversity Messages May Backfire

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Credit: Columbia University

Companies that justify their diversity efforts by saying that a diverse workforce will improve their bottom line risk alienating the diverse employees that they hope to attract, researchers say.

Such "business case" justifications for diversity can backfire by making members of underrepresented groups — such as women in STEM fields, LGBTQ professionals, and Black students — feel that they will be judged based on their social identity if they join the company, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"These business-case justifications are extremely popular," says lead author Oriane Georgeac at the Yale School of Management. "But our findings suggest that they do more harm than good."

The researchers found that business-case diversity statements read by members of underrepresented groups undermined participants' anticipated sense of belonging to the company, and their desire to join the company. The researchers found that the business case may sometimes also threaten members of some well-represented groups.

From American Psychological Association
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