“Diversity Initiative Effectiveness:
Unintended Consequences and Strategies for Improvement”
Diversity initiatives are prevalent, but not always effective. In this talk, I will describe a program of research aimed at better understanding why diversity initiatives do not necessarily work as intended and what can be done to increase their effectiveness. I will begin by presenting a typological theory of the unintended consequences of diversity initiatives. I propose that the unintended consequences of diversity initiatives can be categorized into four broad types and provide a signaling perspective on the underlying mechanisms that drive them. Next, I will highlight the often subtle processes through which diversity initiatives result in unintended consequences by discussing one specific unintended effect. Four studies demonstrate that, rather than increasing pay equity for all employees, diversity initiatives create a pay premium for the small subset of women deemed high potential, while the majority of women continue to receive a pay penalty. Finally, I will present an ongoing project on whether altering the type of rhetoric leaders use to justify diversity initiatives can increase their effectiveness. Preliminary findings indicate that although leaders most often justify diversity initiatives by emphasizing that diversity is valuable, diversity initiatives are more effective when leaders justify them by emphasizing that diversity is both valuable and difficult.