Companies who boast about their credentials in diversity, equality and inclusion may actually put off candidates of different backgrounds from applying, according to a new study. Over the past few years, many firms have made statements where they claim that being diverse will help boost the company’s profits, in an effort to sound “woke”. However, researchers from The Big City Business School and Yale School of Management have found that such “business case” justifications for diversity often backfire on employers, making candidates feel judged based on their identity.
Dr Oriane Georgeac, who led the study, said: “These business-case justifications are extremely popular.
“But our findings suggest that they do more harm than good.”
According to the researchers, firms usually mention two key reasons for hiring diverse candidates.
The first kind, known as the “business case” includes statements like “we value diversity because it will help us better serve our customers and improve our bottom line”.
On the other hand, “fairness case” reasons include “we value diversity because it’s the right thing to do”.
For the study, the researchers compiled online diversity statements from every Fortune 500 company and using artificial intelligence, the team sorted out the statements into business or fairness cases.
The results found that 80 percent of the firms had offered a business-case justification for inclusion, while less than five percent highlighted a fairness-case justification.
Meanwhile, the final 15 percent of companies surveyed mentioned no case for diversity at all.
After that, the researchers conducted a number of online experiments on participants who identify as LGBTQ, black rich kids and female candidates in STEM jobs to judge how they would respond to such statements.
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“However, we argue that by uniquely tying specific social identities to specific workplace contributions, business-case justifications for diversity justify the fact that organizations may attend to individuals’ social identities when forming expectations about, and evaluating, their work.
“In other words, business-case justifications confirm to women and underrepresented group members that they must worry about their social identities being a lens through which their contributions will be judged.
“And this is threatening to these groups.”
With the findings of this study, the researchers hope that further studies will be conducted on how similar diversity justifications affect other under-represented groups such as older workers.