Diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability is a hot topic, both within and outside of academia. Modern societies have become increasingly diverse and fluid and organizations are increasingly aware of the importance of effectively managing diversity to enhance innovation and employee wellbeing. Research has noted both the challenges and opportunities of organizational diversity, suggesting the complexity of the processes involved and a clear need for systematic study on the topic. In this line of work, I examine the psychological obstacles to effective diversity management and how these may be overcome.
As organizations are increasingly diverse, effective diversity management is imperative. However, resistance among both majority and minority group members stands in the way of policies’ successful implementation and execution. This research examines the joint influences of system- and self-interest on people’s support for diversity initiatives. In Study 1, we assessed Dutch students’ (N=202) system-serving attitudes, their subjective and objective self-interest, and their endorsement of the university’s broad diversity stance as well as specific initiatives (such as introducing gender-neutral toilets). As hypothesized, participants higher on system justification were less supportive of diversity and inclusion in general and less accepting of the specific initiatives. These effects were obtained regardless of whether participants personally benefited from the policies (measured through self-report and social category membership), but perceived self-interest also had an independent effect; those who felt they would benefit from the policies were more likely to support them. These findings were complemented by a content analysis of participants’ spontaneously generated arguments showing that resistance often went hand in hand with the denial or downplaying of inequality and claims of positive discrimination. To further examine the simultaneous influence of system- and self-interested motivations, Study 2 assessed Americans’ (N=207) endorsement of diversity initiatives that were either liberal or conservative in nature. System justification negatively predicted support for liberal diversity policies, but positively predicted support for a conservative diversity policy. This effect disappeared when adjusting for participants’ political orientation. Together, these findings advance our understanding of the conflicting motivations that underlie diversity attitudes and policy support.
In preparation: Van der Toorn, J. (2016). Resisting change: The joint influences of system justification and self-interest on diversity policy support. Manuscript in preparation.