Defining Diversity: How Contemporary Diversity Rhetoric Might Undermine Equality


Thursday, March 5, 2020, 11:45am to 1:00pm


Ellwood Democracy Lab, Rubenstein 414

Miguel Unzueta, Professor of Management and Organizations, Senior Associate Dean of UCLA Anderson’s MBA programs, University of California, Los Angeles.

Diversity is a frequently studied topic in the fields of organizational behavior and social psychology, yet very few studies within these fields have examined the manner in which lay audiences understand diversity. This research suggests that the desire to protect the interests of the ingroup motivates majority group members to define diversity in relatively easy terms – e.g., as either entailing minorities’ high numerical and/or their hierarchical representation in an organization – while motivating minority group members to define diversity in relatively hard terms– e.g., as entailing both minorities’ numerical and hierarchical representation. Moreover, the fact that diversity is an ambiguous concept subject to motivated perceptions creates the possibility that diversity can be used to either attenuate or enhance group-based inequality. 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 people’s psychological motivations.