Judgments of “diversity” are rarely completely objective: They are influenced by subjective elements, including the rater’s racial and ethnic group.
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.
Almost 1900 volunteers from diverse racial groups rated headshots of a 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).
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, and this “in-group representation effect” was stronger for African Americans than for Asian Americans.
Later, 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 experienced encountered by other groups reduced in-group biases.
African Americans, compared with other groups, frequently are judged as experiencing:
- Lower social status,
- More negative stereotypes,
- More discrimination, reported Harvard’s Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto of University of Connecticut.
In contrast, Asian Americans tend to be attributed higher status and as a result, report less discrimination than other racial minority groups.
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.
Higher levels of “diversity” have been linked to greater:
Separate 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 confirmed these findings, as did related work by UCLA’s Jaana Juvonen and Sandra Graham with University of California Davis’s Adrienne Nishina
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.
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