The business case for diversity is backfiring

Organisations that use the business case for diversity may be losing out on top talent

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New research about diversity led by Oriane Georgeac, London Business School (LBS) PhD 2019, now Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Yale School of Management, and Aneeta Rattan, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at LBS has found that companies that make public statements about diversity improving the bottom line risk alienating people from underrepresented groups, such as LGBTQ+ professionals, women STEM job seekers and Black job seekers. Their research found that the business case for diversity is prevalent (represented in over 80% of Fortune 500 companies, according to a machine learning algorithm they developed). However, their experiments show that the business case justification for improving diversity - rather than simply saying that it is the right thing to do or offering no justification for diversity at all – reduced underrepresented job seekers’ anticipated sense of belonging and thus their attraction to the organisation because it induced the worry that they would be judged through the lens of stereotypes about their identities.

The research, which was part of Professor Georgeac’s dissertation at LBS, was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the findings have generated a flurry of media interest, both in the UK and abroad. Harvard Business Review, The Telegraph and Forbes are just some of the outlets which have published the research findings, adding evidence to discussions about how best to advocate for diversity in organisations on both sides of the Atlantic.