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Business or Fairness: Which Case for Diversity?

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June 30, 2022

Most organizations don’t feel they need to explain why they care about core values such as innovation, resilience or integrity. Yet when it comes to diversity, lengthy justifications of the value of hiring a diverse workforce have become the norm in corporate America. Eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies explain their interest in diversity as a business case, justifying diversity in the workplace because it benefits companies’ bottom line. In a series of studies, the authors found that how an organization talks about diversity can have a major impact on its ability to actually achieve its diversity goals. They explored the prevalence of different types of diversity rhetoric in corporate communications and how effective these narratives are when it comes to attracting underrepresented job candidates. 

The authors suggest that if an organization must justify its commitment to diversity, it should do so based on a fairness case, that is, on moral grounds. To achieve the best results, however, companies should consider not justifying their commitment to diversity at all. If you don’t need an explanation for the presence of well-represented groups in the workplace beyond their expertise, you don’t need a justification for the presence of underrepresented groups either.

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