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Discriminatory Diversity Definitions: The Ironic Consequences of Managerial Diversity Conceptions


Recent research has documented the increasing managerialization of diversity definitions (i.e., the focus on non-legal dimensions of diversity; Edelman et al., 2001). In three studies, we examine how managerial diversity definitions may affect the perpetuation and enhancement of social inequality in organizations. In Study 1 we find in a survey that organizations with managerial diversity definitions are more likely to have employees who believe their organizations do not have racial diversity problems. In Study 2, we provide direct causal evidence that managerial diversity definitions lead to the belief that an organization does not have a racial diversity problem (even when the organization has clear racial inequality). We also find that this effect occurs because the managerial definition causes people to perceive greater diversity (presumably because they are attending to non-racial dimensions of diversity). Finally, in Study 3 we find that managerial diversity definitions may lead directly to acts of racial discrimination in hiring among those who are relatively high in social dominance orientation. Taken together, these studies illustrate the ironic effects of diversity definitions on social hierarchies in organizations. Theoretical and organizational implications are discussed.

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