Wednesday February 20, 2013
1:00PM - 2:30PM
Diversity as Subjective Perception
Diversity is a frequently studied topic in organizational behavior yet very few studies within OB have examined the manner in which lay audiences understand diversity. My research suggests that the desire to protect the interests of one's racial ingroup motivates White-Americans to define diversity broadly i.e., as either entailing minorities high numerical and/or their hierarchical representation in an organization while motivating Asian- and African-Americans to define diversity specifically i.e., as entailing both minorities numerical and hierarchical representation. Moreover, the fact that diversity is an ambiguously defined concept creates the possibility that diversity is a malleable concept capable of being used to either attenuate or enhance racial inequality. My research suggests that people construe diversity in a manner consistent with their social dominance motives when exposed to ambiguous information concerning an organizations level of diversity. Specifically, anti-egalitarian participants broaden their diversity construal to include non-racial (i.e., occupational) heterogeneity when racial heterogeneity is low. Egalitarian participants, on the other hand, broaden their diversity construal to include non-racial heterogeneity when racial heterogeneity is high. The inclusion of occupational heterogeneity in diversity perceptions allows people across the spectrum of social dominance orientation to justify support for or opposition to hierarchy-attenuating affirmative action policies. In all, this work suggests that diversity may not have a fixed meaning and that without a specific delineation of what the concept means in particular contexts, diversity may be construed in a manner consistent with peoples psychological motivations.