Ingredients for a Workplace Diversity Gumbo

Topic(s): diversity

Topic: Diversity
Publication: The International Journal of Human Resource Management
Article: The challenge of increasing minority-group professional representation in the United States
Author: E.H. Buttner, K.B. Lowe, L. Billings-Harris
Featured By: Benjamin Granger

Despite the heavy focus on diversity, women and racial minorities are still under-represented in a number of professions requiring advanced degrees (e.g., attorneys, accountants, and university professors are more likely to be white men). For this reason, Buttner and colleagues (2009) surveyed 143 business school deans in the U.S. regarding diversity policies and procedures. Specifically, the authors were interested in uncovering university policies that lead to increased minority-group representation in higher education.

The most interesting finding of Buttner et al.’s study highlights the importance of having specific strategies to increase diversity (targeted recruitment, selection, etc.). In other words, specific diversity strategies and policies were much better predictors of true minority-group representation than general perceptions of the importance of increasing diversity.

Another important factor that influenced actual workplace diversity was the deans’ perceptions of the need for cultural change. In fact, Buttner and colleagues concluded that leader perceptions about the need for cultural change were more important predictors of workplace diversity than racial awareness (e.g., acknowledging racial inequalities in the U.S.).

Despite a number of other interesting findings, Buttner et al.’s findings suggest that when it comes to true workplace diversity, specific diversity strategies (e.g., targeting recruitment toward minority groups) trump general diversity strategies (e.g., “Diversity is important to us and we want a more diverse workforce”). In other words, organizations with very specific diversity strategies are more likely to actually achieve the melting pot they desire.

Buttner, E.H., Lowe, K.B., & Billings-Harris, L. (2009). The challenge of increasing minority-group professional representation in the United State: Intriguing findings. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(4), 771-789.