Perceived Diversity = “Like Me”

Christopher Bauman

Christopher Bauman

Judgments of “diversity” are rarely completely objective:
People tend to rate a group as “diverse” when it includes members of the evaluator’s race, found University of California, Irvine’s Christopher W. Bauman, Sophie Trawalter of University of Virginia and UCLA’s Miguel M. Unzueta.

Sophie Trawalter

Sophie Trawalter

Almost 1900 volunteers from diverse racial groups rated headshots of a fictional company’s six-person management team for its “ethnically diversity”:

  • Caucasian team” included six white headshots (100% white),
  • Asian team” showed four white and two Asian people (mirroring the 66% majority of white people in the U.S.),
  • Black team” featured four white and two black people (66% white),
  • Asian + Black” team had four white, one black, and one Asian person (66% white).
Miguel Unzueta

Miguel Unzueta

Members of racial minority groups rated leadership groups as “more diverse” when they included members of their own racial group rather than members of other racial minority groups.

Participants rated groups as it “less racially diverse” when they did not include at least one member of their own racial group.
This “in-group representation effect” was stronger for African Americans than for Asian Americans.

In another study, more than 1,000 volunteers read news articles about the prevalence of prejudice, then provided ratings.
They showed no “in-group representation effect,” suggesting that reading about how another minority group suffers from prejudice reduced raters’ self-referential evaluation bias.

These results indicate that people’s expectations affect perceptions of diversity.
Priming awareness and empathy for similar experiences encountered by other groups reduced in-group biases.

Jim Sidanius

Jim Sidanius

African Americans are often judged as experiencing:

Lower social status,

More negative stereotypes,

More discrimination, reported Harvard’s Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto of University of Connecticut.

Felicia Pratto

Felicia Pratto

In contrast, Asian Americans tend to be attributed higher status so report less discrimination than other racial minority groups.

Andrea Romero

Andrea Romero

Despite this advantage, Asian Americans have a lower return on their investment in education than Whites, even though they achieve higher levels of education and income than other racial minority groups, reported University of Arizona’s Andrea Romero with Robert Roberts of University of Texas and another group led by UT colleague Myrtle P. Bell with David A. Harrison and Mary E. McLaughlin.

Myrtle P Bell

Myrtle P Bell

Higher levels of “diversity” have been linked to greater:

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns

These findings were confirmed in studies by Columbia’s Valerie Purdie-Vaughns and Ruth Ditlmann, Claude M. Steele of Stanford, University of British Columbia’s Paul G. Davies and Jennifer Randall Crosby of Williams College and separate work by UCLA’s Jaana Juvonen and Sandra Graham with University of California Davis’s Adrienne Nishina 

Jaana Juvonen

Jaana Juvonen

Diversity is “in the eye of the beholder” because a team may appear more diverse to raters when the group’s composition aligns with the observers’ own characteristics.

-*How do you reduce personal in-group biases based on individual expectations and experiences?


Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds




2 thoughts on “Perceived Diversity = “Like Me”

  1. kathrynwelds Post author

    An African American woman from Silicon Valley wrote:

    Just read your post. Very good.
    One question I wonder, just based on my experience here, is whether or not studies have looked at how non-minorities judge diversity vs. minorities.
    B/c in my experience, I find that ppl will tell me how the Silicon Valley is so much more diverse than anywhere else, but somehow overlook the fact that Black and non-white Latino faces are few and far between.
    So kind of seems as if for white people, ANY non-white face is counted as being “very diverse” even if the numbers are very skewed and omit minorities groups who are actually well-represented in the country as a whole.

    But the status discussion is one that I have discussed with my friends but not really out loud. There is a HUGE discount effect that occurs no matter what your credentials are when you are black…you are way less likely to get the opportunity to learn the 1 or 2 things on a list of 10 skills that they are asking for than i feel might occur if you are a white male or an Asian or South Asian of either gender.
    I’ve interviewed in situations where my credentials and background were much stronger than anyone on the team, but told afterwards that I wasn’t hired because of what I was missing-and this is frequently after interviewing with team members who cannot BELIEVE their good fortune in getting the shot at what for them was a stretch role.

    I was interviewed at Pxxxxxx for a role that involved working with software solutions for major corporate partners with a director with a psychology undergrad degree and an MBA from Dxxxxx xxxxxxx.
    I interviewed at Mxxxxxxx with a young white male manager who had no advanced degree and just had a few years of IT consulting experience but was made head of a high visibility cloud group.
    So I keep wondering, why are they given the chance to step into these roles that are so far beyond their experience and education?
    So I often feel as if Harvard+Michigan(x2) is less than San Jose State, Chico State, or humanities degrees.
    This is a weird place.

  2. kathrynwelds Post author

    Kathryn responded:

    Thank you so much for your note.
    This very topic was discussed at Fountainblue’s recent panel on The Business Case for Diversity (no longer listed, but the website is:
    The statistics on diversity and inclusion for women in Silicon Valley are unacceptably low, but even more abysmal for Black and Latino professionals.
    We have much more work to do.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s