Unintended Consequences of Diversity Initiatives: Types, Causes, and Interventions


Thursday, April 4, 2019, 11:45am to 1:00pm


Wexner 434, Harvard Kennedy School

Lisa Leslie, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations, New York University 

The purpose of diversity initiatives is to help groups that face disadvantage in society (e.g., women, racial/ethnic minorities, etc.) achieve better outcomes in organizations, but they do not necessarily work as intended. In this seminar, Lisa Leslie first presents a typology of four unintended consequence types—backfire, negative spillover, positive spillover, and false progress—as well as theory regarding the underlying mechanisms and processes that produce them. She next provides empirical examples illustrating the different unintended consequence types. She concludes by using the typological theory to derive potential interventions aimed at increasing diversity initiative effectiveness.

This seminar is co-sponsored by the Women and Public Policy Program and the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI) at Harvard Kennedy School.