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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Diversity is in the Eye of the Beholder: How Majority and Minority Group Members Define Diversity


This paper suggests that the concept of diversity carries different meanings for majority (e.g., men, Whites) and minority (e.g., women, racial minorities) group members. Because diversity is in-group relevant for minority but not majority group members, group-interest may motivate minority but not majority group members to define diversity in ways that maximize benefits for the in-group. One such way is for minorities to define diversity in a relatively complex manner – that is, as entailing both the numerical and structural representation of minorities in an organization. Majority group members, on the other hand, since they are not motivated by group-interest, may define diversity as simply entailing minorities’ numerical representation. Four studies tested these hypotheses. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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