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Diversity in organizations: Where are we now and where are we going?
Lynn M. Shore ⁎, Beth G. Chung-Herrera, Michelle A. Dean, Karen Holcombe Ehrhart, Don I. Jung,
Amy E. Randel, Gangaram Singh
Institute for Inclusiveness and Diversity in Organizations, Department of Management, Colle ge of Business Administration, San Diego State University,
5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
article info abstract
A great deal of research has focused on workforce diversity. Despite an increasing number of
studies, few consistent conclusions have yet to be reached about the antecedents and outcomes
of diversity. Likewise, research on different dimensions of diversity (e.g., age, race, gender,
sexual orientation, disability, and culture) has mostly evolved independently. Therefore, the
purpose of this review is to examine each of these dimensions of diversity to describe common
themes across dimensions and to develop an integrative model of diversity.
© 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
While the term “workforce diversity”is commonly used in scholarly articles as well as in the popular press, the focus and scope
of the research is both varied and broad. Until recently, most studies have focused on a single dimension of diversity (e.g., age, sex,
race) in a domestic, typically U.S. context. In aworld of globalization populated by boundaryless and virtual organizations, it is time
to revisit the old theories of diversity and to create a new set of paradigms. Therefore, in this article we examine multiple
dimensions of diversity to assess the current status of the literature, and to make some suggestions going forward.
As a starting point, we examine six dimensions of diversity (race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and national origin)
to determine how these literatures have evolved. The purpose of this review is to provide a basis on which to focus on similarities
and differences in these separate literatures, in order to determine the extent to which an integrative framework of diversity is
meaningful and appropriate. To move toward identifying areas of similarityas a basis for integration, for each diversity dimension
included in this article we ﬁrst brieﬂy review theoretical paradigms and the extent to which associated predictions for the diversity
dimensions are positive, negative, or neutral. Since theories guide our research streams, we deem it important to evaluate the
extent to which present-day theories adequately represent the potential array of outcomesfrom negative to positive that mayexist
for individuals, groups, and organizations. We also review literature on antecedents and outcomes studied within each diversity
dimension. Subsequently, we examine themes by reviewing current theoretical paradigms and then limitations across different
dimensions of diversity, with the goal of identifying points of integration and needed development for moving the literature
forward. Finally, we present a broad model of diversity that integrates key variables and suggestions for the diversity literature
1. Race and ethnicity diversity
A number of theories have been used for studying race/ethnicity as a central variable of interest.
Most of these theories come
from a micro-theoretical perspective and attempt to explain behavior from an individual, or within work group perspective.
Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
⁎Corresponding author. Fax: +1 619 594 3272.
E-mail address: email@example.com (L.M. Shore).
Some of the more frequently cited theories include social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981), racial identity theory (Phinney,1992), intergroup theory (Alderfer, 1986;
Tajfel & Turner, 1986), social- and self-categorization theories (Pettigrew, 1986; Tajfel, 1981), the similarity-attraction paradigm (Byrne, 1971), relational
demography (Tsui, Egan, & O’Reilly, 1992), aversive racism theory (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986), rational bias theory (Larwood, Gutek, & Gattiker, 1984), homophily
(Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954), tokenism and proportionality theories (Kanter, 1977), and stereotype and prototype theories (Davis & Watson, 1982; Schein, 1973).
1053-4822/$ –see front matter © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Human Resource Management Review
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/humres
A majority of these theories come from the ﬁelds of social psychology or cognitive psychology and stem from our cognitive and
social need to categorize ourselves and others based on surface-level or readily perceivable characteristics such as race. These
theories often have been used to introduce or justify hypotheses that have focused on negative outcomes or predictions as a result
of race/ethnicity differences.
Some of the basic assumptions made about people and human nature contained in many of these theories are that: 1) humans
judge each otheron surface-levelcharacteristics, such asrace or gender, in the absence of additional information,2) group membership
based on these characteristicsimplies true similarities ordifferences between peoplewhich then creates the formation of in-group and
out-group distinctions, and 3) these judgments ultimately result in outcomes that may have negative effects for minority or out-group
members (e.g., lack of mentors, stalled careers, lower performance evaluations) or group productivity.
Within the literature on race and ethnic diversity, there also are some theories that focus on positive predictions or possible
positive outcomes of racial/ethnic diversity. This comes from a “value in diversity”perspective (Cox, 1993; Cox, Lobel & McLeod,
1991 ) which argues that diversity creates value and beneﬁt for team outcomes.
The general assumption that underlies these
theories is that an increase in racial/ethnic diversity means that a work group will experience possible positive outcomes such as:
increased information, enhanced problem solving ability, constructive conﬂict and debate, increased creativity, higher quality
decisions, and increased understanding of different ethnicities/cultures. Another underlying assumption is that surface-level
diversity such as race is indicative of deeper-level differences, such as cognitive processes/schemas, differential knowledge base,
different sets of experiences, and different views of the world.
1.1. Antecedents and outcomes of racial/ethnic diversity
Earlier research (1960s–1980s), motivated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the U.S., focused on whether there was
discrimination and bias present in selection, training, performance evaluations, promotions, and other important human resource
functions (c.f., Cox & Nkomo, 1990). There also has been some research conducted on differences between subgroups in terms of
job satisfaction and other attitudes, motivation, and leadership. According to Kraiger and Ford's (1985) meta-analysis, race/
ethnicity explained 3.7% of the variance in job performance ratings. Ratees tended to receive higher ratings from raters of the same
race. However, Sackett and DuBois (1991) found that Black ratees consistently received lower ratings than White ratees from both
White and Black raters. Recent meta-analyses show that the Black–White mean difference in job performance is approximately .27
(McKay & McDaniel, 2006) to one-third of a standard deviation (Roth, Huffcutt, & Bobko, 2003) and that group differences were
similar to, if not larger, for objective versus subjective measures (Roth et al., 2003). Further, McKay and McDaniel (2006) found that
effect sizes were strongly moderated by criterion type and the cognitive loading of criteria. Other ﬁndings for race/ethnicity effects
suggest that those individuals who are different from the majority in an organization tend to be more likely to leave, to be less
satisﬁed and less psychologically committed (Moch 1980; Williams & O'Reilly, 1998).
Leadership differences between Black and White leaders were reviewed by both Bartol, Evans, and Stith (1978) and Cox and
Nkomo (1990), who concluded that there is disparity in the nature of the effect of race/ethnicity on leader behavior and
subordinate reactions (e.g., Hill & Fox, 1973; Richards & Jaffee, 1972). There was some support for the contention that Black
supervisors are less directive and less likely to initiate interactions than White supervisors when working with predominantly
White subordinates. Further, they determined that Black leaders may initiate more leader behavior when dealing with mixed
subordinate groups. A more recent review of leadership and race/ethnicity diversity (Chung-Herrera & Lankau, 2007) suggested
that similarities and differences both exist depending on the speciﬁc dimension on which leaders are being compared (e.g.,
behaviors, prototypes, styles, conﬂict management).
By the 1990s, research on diversity begun to focus on work teams, or the business case for managing and utilizing an
increasingly diverse workforce (Johnston & Packer, 1987; see reviews in Jackson, Joshi, & Erhardt, 2003; Mannix & Neale, 2005;
Ragins & Gonzalez, 2003; Van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004). Two opposing views emerged (Milliken & Martins, 1996).
The optimistic perspective is that there are beneﬁts to the team by having increased diversity. Group performance is thought to be
enhanced by having broader resources and multiple perspectives (Hoffman, 1959). Particular to race, some studies (McLeod, Lobel
& Cox, 1996; Watson, Kumar & Michaelsen, 1993) have found that ethnically diverse work teams make better decisions than
homogeneous teams. The pessimistic perspective is that increased ethnic diversity (as well as age and tenure diversity) typically
has shown negative effects on social integration and communication, and increased conﬂict (Williams & O'Reilly,1998). Regarding
race/ethnicity diversity and performance, the evidence predominantly shows either non-signiﬁcant results (Jehn & Bezrukova,
2004) or negative effects (e.g., Jackson & Joshi, 2004; Kirkman, Tesluk, & Rosen, 2004). Regarding relational race/ethnicity, it
appears that Whites have lower work attitudes when in minority groups while being different from others in a work group
regarding race does not have an effect on the work attitudes of minorities (Riordan, 2000).
In the most recent review to date, Joshi and Roh (2007) found a fairly equal number of studies reporting positive or negative
effects for race/ethnicity diversity across three outcomes types (performance, process and affect/attitude). The most interesting
ﬁnding, however, was that there were more null ﬁndings than positive and negative effects put together. For example, race/
ethnicity diversity effects in relation to performance yielded seven positive, eight negative and 20 null ﬁndings. Similar to Joshi and
Roh's review, Webber and Donahue (2001) in their meta-analysis of 24 studies found that demographic diversity (including race/
ethnicity) had no relationship with team cohesion or performance.
Examples of these types of theories and perspectives include intergroup contact theory (Allport, 1954), heterogeneity in small groups (Hoffman, 1959),
information and decision making theories (Levine & Resnick, 1993), and creative problem solving (Triandis, Hall, & Ewen, 1965).
118 L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
Some observations can be made about the body of work on race and ethnicity in organizations. First, in contrast to a popular
belief on ethnic diversity, the positive effect of ethnic diversity on work group performance has not been supported conclusively.
Instead, null and negative results have been more common. Therefore, more research is certainly needed to specify different
contingencies such as length of time together as a group, task characteristics, and various combinations of ethnicity in which ethnic
diversity may have differential effects on performance. Second, it seems that there has been a neglect of the White or Caucasian
category as a race (Ragins & Gonzalez, 2003). Most often, the Caucasian category serves as merely the control or reference group. In
other words, other than research ﬁndings that report lower work attitudes for Whites in diverse settings (e.g., Riordan, 2000), there
is little research that provides empirical evidence explaining the reasons for these ﬁndings or that sheds light on the characteristics
associated with being White or the White experience of diversity. This may reﬂect the primarily negative theoretical focus on
discrimination, stereotyping, and the harmful consequences of being in the minority group. Another assumption in most of the
research thus far is that the majority group in organizations is Caucasian and that most managers are Caucasian. This is often
presumed or taken for granted without knowledge or discussion of the proportional context of the organization and thus results
are broadly generalized despite other possible conﬁgurations. This assumption, along with the fact that most research participants
have been Caucasian, has obviously shaped the results that have been found; consequently, we still have a very rudimentary
understanding of diversity that involves different combinations of multiple races/ethnicities in a work setting.
2. Gender diversity
Similar to early research on race/ethnicity, research on gender diversity prior to the 1990s focused largely on discrimination and
bias resulting from being different from the majority. Research reporting negative effects for women regarding performance
ratings (e.g., Tsui & O'Reilly, 1989) and pay discrimination (e.g., Bielby & Baron, 1986) built on the similarity-attraction paradigm
(Byrne, 1971) and on the work of Kanter (1977), who posited that women experienced isolation and stereotyping. Gender diversity
has also been found to have more negative effects on men than women in regards to outcomes, such as attachment to the
organization (Tsui, Egan, & O'Reilly, 1992).
Our review of recent gender diversity literature (since 2000) suggests that most of the published research incorporates
theoretical perspectives that hold negative predictions. Many of these articles build on theories that are traditionally associated
with diversity, such as similarity-attraction (Byrne, 1971), social identity (Tajfel, 1981), or discrimination (Meyerson & Fletcher,
2000). However, research in the last half decade has included other theoretical perspectives with negative predictions, such as
theory on status hierarchy (Chattopadhyay, 2003; Graves & Elsass, 2005), gender reproduction theory (which seeks to explain why
masculine and feminine behaviors occur in different contexts; Young & Hurlic, 2007), and theories of stereotypes and social roles
(Duehr & Bono, 2006).
Fewer studies have included either theoretical perspectives with positive predictions or perspectives that were not clearly
positive or negative. Among the former group of studies, Lee and Farh (2004) build on Bandura's (1977) social cognitive theory to
predict that gender diversity would moderate the relationship between group efﬁcacy and group outcomes. They found that the
group efﬁcacy-performance relationship was stronger in mixed gender groups than in same gender groups. Other examples of
theoretical perspectives with positive predictions are person-organization ﬁt(e.g.,Kristof, 1996) which was used to predict applicant
attraction to the organization based on Equal Employment Opportunity statements in recruitment brochures (Rau & Hyland, 2003),
Schwartz's (1992) value framework which was used as the basis for a study that showed that positive attitudes towards diverse
others increases the likelihood of successful diversity management (Sawyerr, Strauss, & Yan, 2005), and the value-in-diversity
framework which posits that diversity is associated with beneﬁts resulting from a variety of perspectives (Frink et al., 2005; Richard,
Barnett, Dwyer, & Chadwick, 2004; Singh & Point, 2006).
Additional theoretical perspectives have been offered in this literature that are not entirely positive or negative, such as
structural hole theory (Balkundi, Kilduff, Barsness, & Michael, 2006) and conﬁgurational theory (Dwyer, Richard, & Chadwick,
2003). Dwyer et al. assessed interactions between gender diversity in top management teams and ﬁrm's growth orientation and
between gender diversity and organizational culture types with ﬁndings mostly supporting their approach, which suggests that
studying the effects of variables in isolation is not as fruitful as a more holistic view in which interactions among variables are
examined. Balkundi and colleagues found that moderate levels of structural holes (deﬁned as occurring when an individual
occupying a structural hole is friends with two individuals who do not otherwise know each other) within teams was more
beneﬁcial for team performance than low or high levels of structural holes. Interestingly, in their social network application
of structural holes to diverse teams, they found structural hole diversity within teams to have more of an impact on team
performance than demographic (gender, age, or ethnic) diversity.
2.1. Antecedents and consequences of gender diversity
Most research in this area focuses on the effects of gender diversityon outcomes. Antecedents that have been examined include
personality characteristics (as they relateto diversity attitudes), the number of women corporate directors, task gender orientation,
group efﬁcacy, corporate statements about diversity on websites, and a ﬁrm's commitment to diversity as reﬂected in recruitment
materials (Bilimoria, 2006; Karakowsky, McBey, & Chuang, 2004; Lee & Farh, 2004; Rau & Hyland, 2003; Sawyerr et al., 2005; Singh
& Point, 2006). With the exception of Karakowsky et al. (2004) who considered the effect of societal gender roles on perceptions of
performance, no other recent gender diversity articles considered antecedents that were external to the individual or ﬁrm.
119L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
While Wood's (1987) meta-analysis of small group research found that mixed gender groups perform better overall than same-
gender groups, more recent reviews of the gender diversity literature (Jackson et al., 2003; Mannix & Neale, 2005) have concluded
that there are generally inconsistent effects of gender on performance or group processes. The same conclusion could be made on
the basis of more recent literature as well as evidence for both negative and insigniﬁcant relationships regarding cohesion
(Shapcott, Carron, Burke, Bradshaw, & Estabrooks, 2006; Vecchio & Brazil, 2007). Within the same study of mixed-sex groups, for
example, there was evidence that women experienced polarization and group-boundary tightening but no visibility or isolation
(Hewstone et al., 2006). Further, there have been many non-signiﬁcant ﬁndings reported with respect to outcomes such as group
performance, task conﬂict, relationship conﬂict, turnover, cohesion, attachment in teams, experiences in teams, comfort with
differences, structural holes, and organizational attractiveness (Balkundi et al., 2006; Ely, 2004; Graves & Elsass, 2005; Hobman &
Bordia, 2006; Leonard & Levine, 2006; Leonard, Levine, & Joshi, 2004; Martins & Parsons, 2007; Strauss & Connerley, 2003; Vecchio
& Brazil, 2007).
Numerous researchers have attempted to gain greater clarity into what otherwise may yield inconsistent relationships between
gender diversity and outcomes. For instance, the effect of gender diversity on outcomes was found to be moderated by growth
orientation, team identiﬁcation, and team orientation (Dwyer et al., 2003; Hobman & Bordia, 2006; Mohammed & Angell, 2004).
Inverted U-shaped relationships were found between organizational-level gender composition and ﬁrm performance (Frink et al.,
2005) and between management group gender heterogeneity and productivity for ﬁrms with high levels of risk taking (Richard
et al., 2004). Somech (2003) only found differences between opposite-sex pairs and same-sex pairs with respect to participative
leadership when the duration of the acquaintance was longer. Other recent works examined outcome variables that have been
understudied in the gender diversity literature, such as interpersonal deviance (Liao, Joshi, & Chuang, 2004), supervisor-focused
impression management behaviors (Barsness, Diekmann, & Seidel, 2005), and union attachment (Bacharach & Bamberger, 2004).
Most research on gender diversity in organizations is premised on the assumption that diversity is fraught with difﬁculties,
such as in-group bias, or that diversity is a double-edged sword with challenges accompanying the potential beneﬁts. Since most
work in this area is either based upon or acknowledges theories such as social identity theory and the similarity-attraction
perspective, there is a tendency to consider uniformity positively in theoretical predictions. Therefore, more research is needed
that incorporates recent theoretical frameworks such as status characteristics theory and person-organization ﬁt. In particular,
research based on theoretical perspectives, like structural hole theory (e.g., Balkundi et al., 2006) and Schwartz's value framework
(e.g., Sawyerr et al., 2005) that focus on neutral or positive predictions, would be a valuable addition to the literature on gender in
organizations. In addition, research should go beyond examining the effect of gender composition on outcomes and instead
consider such variables as effective leadership of mixed gender groups and contextual characteristics that reduce the effects of
stereotyping in mixed gender settings.
3. Age diversity
A review of the literature on age and work shows a clear theoretical emphasis on negative predictions. The predominant
theoretical models are older worker stereotypes (DeArmond et al., 2006; Maurer & Rafuse, 2001), social identity and relational
demography (Ostroff, Atwater, & Feinberg, 2004), age discrimination (Perry, Simpson, NicDomhnaill, & Siegel, 2003), career
timetables (Perry, Kulik, & Zhou, 1999; Shore, Cleveland, & Goldberg, 2003), and prototype matching (Perry & Finkelstein, 1999).
Some studies examined the role of age perceptions (rather than chronological age), including self-perceptions of age or perceived
age relative to the work group or manager (Barnes-Farrell, Rumery, & Swody, 2002; Maurer, Weiss, & Barbeite, 2003; Shore et al.,
2003). An underlying theme in these studies is that age discrimination or at least unfair treatment is likely to occur for older
workers. The inherent assumption seems to be that when decisions are made about individuals (e.g., performance ratings, hiring
decisions, and salary decisions), young employees are preferred over middle-aged or older employees. These effects are especially
likely when employees are relatively older than other employees in their group, organizational level, or manager. Such ageism is
predicted for both observers (individuals in the work environment whose age is not the focal point) and focal employees (via self-
perceptions of age) (Shore & Goldberg, 2004).
An important issue in the age diversity literature is the role of stereotypes. Stereotypes about older workers have been primarily
negative, including such views as older people are less productive, ﬂexible, creative, and harder to train (Kulik, Perry, & Bourhis,
2000; Ringenbach & Jacobs, 1994), more rigid and resistant to change and less comfortable with technology (Rosen & Jerdee, 1976,
1977). However, more recent research suggests that some of these stereotypes may no longer be as strong or impactful (Weiss &
Maurer, 2004). Related to the issue of stereotypes, assumptions about age-related declines may inﬂuence treatment of older
workers relative to younger workers. However, Shore and Goldberg (2004) concluded that most age-related declines in skills and
capacities that might substantially affect performance did not occur during normal working ages.
The remaining research uses theoretical paradigms that yield mixed (neutral and negative), neutral, or positive (only one paper)
theoretical predictions. These include social identity and relational demography (Avery, McKay, & Wilson, 2007; Ostroff et al.,
2004), organizational demography (Zenger & Lawrence, 1989), social categorization, information and decision making (Ely, 2004),
career development (Finkelstein, Allen, & Rhoton, 2003), uncertainty reduction theory (Finkelstein, Kulas, & Dages, 2003), and
social support (Niessen, 2006). These studies focus primarily on work processes (e.g., communication, socialization, mentoring),
rather than decision-making outcomes (which is the focus of much of the “negative predictions”research described above).
Another theme in this category is the potential for positive social relations within work groups to increase the positive effects of age
120 L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
diversity or prevent negative effects. For example, older employees are likely to have knowledge and experience that is useful
within groups, but such human capital may only be utilized in an environment in which positive relations among members are
conducive to appreciating different types of contributions.
3.1. Antecedents and outcomes of age diversity
Very little research has examined antecedents of age diversity in the work setting. Unlike race or gender diversity, organizations
rarely undertake initiatives to increase age diversity. Traditional age distributions within organizational structures (younger at the
bottom and older in the middle and top) were derived from hiring employees at a young age and retaining them through most of
their working lives. Such age distributions were aligned with societal expectations of orderly career progression, similarly aged
work groups, and “appropriate”age differences between employees and managers. The last twenty years have seen an erosion of
such traditions as increased competition and expansion of the global economy has contributed to a trend for organizations to
become ﬂatter and leaner. These environmental forces have undermined traditional career paths and associated age norms in
organizations, contributing to more potential for age diversity effects. Another societal trend that relates to age composition in
organizations is the impending retirement of the baby boom generation. There is increasing concern that the loss of baby boomers
will lead to critical labor shortages. Thus, organizational leaders are beginning to focus on retention of older workers. As yet,
however, there does not seem to be much evidence that organizations are proactively addressing these issues (Armstrong-Stassen
& Templer, 2005). At the same time, there has been a recent trend of these baby boomers coming out of their retirement and such a
trend represents an additional complicating factor in understanding age-related diversity in organizations.
Much of the research on age has focused on outcomes such as selection, performance appraisal, training and development, and
career opportunities. One theme that seems to predominate is that older employees are disadvantaged when they are in the
minority and when compared with younger employees. For selection, the evidence suggests that when older and younger
applicants are in the same applicant pool, younger applicants are preferred over older applicants (Finkelstein et al., 1995). In the
same vein, while age is not generally associated with lower performance ratings (Avolio, Waldman, & McDaniel, 1990), there is
evidence that employees who are older than the age norm for their career stage receive lower performance ratings (Lawrence,
1988), as do employees who are older than their work group (Cleveland & Shore, 1992). Furthermore, older employees receive
more severe consequences for poor performance than their younger counterparts (Rupp, Vodanovich, & Crede, 2006).
For training and development opportunities, older workers tend to receive fewer opportunities than younger employees
(Maurer & Rafuse, 2001), especially when they are older than their work group (Cleveland & Shore, 1992) or manager (Shore et al.,
2003). Similarly, research on promotion opportunities has shown a decrease in upward mobility with age (Cox & Nkomo, 1992;
Lawrence, 1984) due in part to age norms associated with career progression (Lawrence, 1990). This is especially likely when the
employee is older than his or her manager (Shore et al., 2003) or work group (Cleveland & Shore, 1992). Research associating age
with work processes is much more equivocal. Studies of mentoring suggest that both younger and older protégés consider such
activities beneﬁcial, with the younger group reporting more frequent career-related mentoring and older reporting higher
relationship quality with their mentors and more mutual learning (Finkelstein, Allen, & Rhoton, 2000, 2003). Research on age in
socialization suggests that older workers are less likely to use covert forms of information seeking, and that this was associated
with higher levels of role clarity and job satisfaction (Finkelstein et al., 2003).
The research on agediversity is much less developed than thaton race and gender, suggesting the need for new paradigms and new
approaches to studyingage in the work setting. The majority of research has beenconducted in a Western setting,and as pointed out by
Joshi and Roh (2007), cultural views of aging may inﬂuence age effects suchthat different theories and effectsmay be posed based on
culturalnorms and perspectives. Unlikeother social categories of diversity, aging is an experience that mosthuman beings will have, in
light of current predicted life spans. Given the emphasis in American society onyouth that is reﬂected in the media and sought-after
lifestyles (e.g., active, ﬁt, and retaining youthfulness), attributes associated with aging are often considered less desirable (e.g., slower,
less able to work long hours, less attractive). In addition, most individuals include people of a variety of ages in their non-work in-
groups (e.g., family, community, churches and temples). In these settings, there are norms and expectations that guide relationships;
for example, parents and grandparents serve as mentors and sources of advice due to their greater life experience.In the work setting
where organizational roles are not necessarily aligned with age norms (e.g., a “twenty-something”manager with a “ﬁfty-something”
subordinate), potential for discomfort or conﬂicts may occur. These types of normative misalignments are reﬂected in many of the
theories that examine age diversity (e.g., prototype matching, career timetables).
As such, these more general societal views likely inﬂuence workplace dynamics, and may account for some of the negative
outcomes that relatively older employees experience. Research on cultural and societal views of aging are needed, especially in a
global economy where age norms and expectations may differ based on nationality and culture.
4. Disability diversity
Theories related to disability in the workplace include medical, moral, social, and post-modernist perspectives (Jaeger &
Bowman, 2005; Mason, Pratt, Patel, Greydanus, & Yahya, 2004). In particular, social psychology theories (e.g., social identity and
self-categorization, Tajfel, 1981) have served as a foundation for work on disability. Several theories do not explicitly portray
disability as positive or negative, but rather propose variability in how people with disabilities deal with workplace situations and
121L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
how coworkers respond. For instance, Stone and Colella’s (1996) seminal theoretical model discusses the role of organization,
environment, and person factors in contributing to how people with disabilities are treated in the workplace. As another example,
response ampliﬁcation theory indicates that individuals' feelings of aversion or hostility clash with feelings of sympathy or
compassion, and this conﬂict is resolved by defending one and denying the other, which results in extreme behavior toward the
target, in this case the person with a disability (Colella & Varma, 2001).
Theories involving prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and stigma typically portray disability as negative or problematic.
Nevertheless, some have identiﬁed differences among types of disability. Weiner, Perry, and Magnusson 's (1988) work related to
attribution theory found physical stigmas to be perceived as onset-uncontrollable and stable, which elicited pity and desire to help.
Mental-behavioral stigmas, however, were perceived as onset-controllable and unstable (reversible), which elicited anger and desire to
neglect. Similarly, Jones and Stone (1995) found that different disabilities evoked different attributions or stereotypes, which may also
apply to organizational treatment and outcomes (e.g., hiring practices; Lee, 1996). Other work has discussed dimensions of stigma,
including disruptiveness, origin, aesthetic qualities, course, concealability, and peril (Jones et al., 1984; McLaughlin, Bell, & Stringer, 2004).
Additional theoretical perspectives portray disability in a negative light. According to the just world hypothesis (Lerner, 1980), a
person is blamed for having a disability and viewed as deserving the disability. Thus, an observer does not feel obligated to help
with or accommodate the disability, since it is the fault of that person. Leader-member exchange theory (e.g., Graen & Cashman,
1975) would predict that if a leader does not have a disability, then a subordinate with a disability would likely experiencea poorer
exchange than a subordinatewithout a disability (Colella, DeNisi, & Varma, 1997). The similarity-attraction paradigm (Byrne, 1971)
would also predict negative treatment and outcomes for people who have disabilities compared to coworkers who do not.
A few theories view disability more positively. The norm to be kind suggests a bias toward people with disabilities such that they
should not receive negative treatment or outcomes (Colella,1996; Colella et al., 1997, Colella, De Nisi, & Varma, 1998; Colella & Stone,
2005), even if they have poor performance. In addition, individuals may hold lower expectations of a person with a disability, such
that the person would be rewarded for performing better than expectations rather than for his or her level of performance (e.g.,
Colella et al., 1997). However, if people recognize the impact of their lower expectations, they may overcompensate by failing to
provide rewards to the person with a disability in favor of a coworker, even a coworker with lower performance.
4.1. Antecedents and outcomes of disability diversity
Theoretical work on disability has increased since the passage of the ADA, but empirical research is somewhat sparse. Perhaps
the most commonly studied antecedent involves expectations or perceptions of workers with disabilities. Colella's (1996) review of
this topic identiﬁed 12 laboratory studies, three surveys of employers, and one set of ﬁeld experiments. Since then, several
laboratory studies have investigated rater perceptions of a hypothetical ratee with a disability (Bell & Klein, 2001; Colella et al.,
1998; Colella & Varma,1999; Jones & Stone,1995). For example, in line with the norm to be kind, Miller and Werner (2005) found
inﬂated task performance ratings of a ratee with a disability, particularly when the ratee is perceived as not responsible for the
disability. In turn, performance expectations predicted raters' attitudes toward the ratee, perceived fairness of accommodations,
and employment judgments (e.g., hiring; McLaughlin et al., 2004). Other research has investigated the timing of disclosing a
disability (Hebl & Skorinko, 2005) and the role of personal characteristics such as personality (García, Paetzold, & Colella, 2005) and
ethnicity (Saetermoe, Scattone, & Kim, 2001) in evaluating individuals with disabilities.
Several studies of antecedents have employed workplace samples, including studies of ingratiation (Colella & Varma, 2001),
individuals' experiences with coworkers who had a disability (Scherbaum, Scherbaum, & Popovich, 2005), comfort when interacting
with people with disabilities (Nordstrom, Huffaker, & Williams,1998), and concerns with cost minimization and perceived legitimacy
in the eyes of key stakeholders (Harcourt, Lam, & Harcourt, 2005). A few studies have involved legal issues, including reactions to
accommodation requests (Florey & Harrison, 2000), and organizational resources and procedures for providing accommodation
(Unger & Kregel, 2003). Employers with coercive (fear of a lawsuit) as opposed to normative (belief that it is the right thing to do)
rationales for compliance were more likely to hold stigmatized attitudes (Scheid, 2005). Finally, diversity climate was found to be the
biggest and most consistent predictor of workplace discrimination against those with disabilities (Nelson & Probst, 2004).
As a whole, the literature tends to view disability as negative. However, work in vocational or rehabilitation journals, while
more practical than theoretical, is increasingly taking a positive perspective (e.g., Franche Baril, Shaw, Nicholas, & Loisel, 2005,
recommended a collaborative problem solving approach to return-to-work issues). Also encouraging is a recent study of diversity
policies of the top 100 companies in the 2003 Fortune 500, which found that of organizations with diversity policies, 42% included
people with disabilities in the deﬁnition of a diverse workforce, and 15%had supplier diversity policies that include disability in the
deﬁnition of diversity (Ball, Monaco, Schmeling, Schartz, & Blanck, 2005). The authors concluded that management is realizing the
importance of having an atmosphere of integration, attracting a diverse workforce, and promoting tolerance in the workplace.
Nevertheless, Schur, Kruse, and Blanck (2005) and Spataro (2005) have cautioned that corporate culture is crucial in encouraging or
discouraging attitudes and practices incorporating people with disabilities.
5. Sexual orientation diversity
In the organizational behavior and applied psychology literatures, theories related to sexual orientation involve relational
demography, stereotyping, and stigma. Although these perspectives assume that co-workers' sexual orientation is apparent to all,
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this assumption may not be correct given that sexual orientation is an “invisible”characteristic and some homosexual individuals
may hide their sexual orientation (Ragins & Wiethoff, 2005).
Relational demography suggests that work group and superior-subordinate demographic composition impact employees' work-
related attitudes and behaviors (Riordan, 2000; Tsui, Egan, & O'Reilly, 1992; Tsui & O'Reilly, 1989), but Ragins and Wiethoff (2005)
noted that it may be the case that gay men do not ﬁnd themselves to be similar to heterosexual men; likewise, lesbian women
may not necessarily identify with heterosexual women. Ragins, Cornwell, and Miller (2003) also used the relational demography
perspective to examine the impact of multiple group memberships (race and gender) on sexual orientation discrimination and
disclosure of sexual orientation at work.
The notion of stereotyping has been used to explain how gay men and lesbians are perceived in the workplace. According to
implicit inversion theory, homosexual individuals do not conform to traditional gender roles; speciﬁcally, gay men are seen as
more feminine than heterosexual men, whereas lesbian women are seen as more masculine than their female heterosexual
counterparts (Kite & Deaux, 1987).
A stigmatized group is viewed as non-normal by those who are in the majority (Goffman, 1963). When a stigmatized
characteristic is less visible, which is often the case with sexual orientation, the individual possessing that characteristic may
choose not to disclose this fact to others (Ragins, 2008). Some heterosexuals may actively avoid associations with gay and lesbian
colleagues out of fear of being perceived as gay, which Goffman referred to as a “courtesy”stigma. Heterosexism is the term used to
refer to negative attitudes toward individuals with a homosexual orientation (Deitch, Butz, & Brief, 2004).
Stigma is also discussed in the labor economics literature (Allegretto & Arthur, 2001; Badgett,1995; Clain & Leppel, 2001), but
the empirical focus of this literature with respect to sexual orientation in the workplace has been on comparing the average
compensation of gay and lesbian employees with their heterosexual counterparts. Becker's (1971) taste for discrimination model
suggested that if an employer has a “taste”for discrimination against a minority group, then they will hire members of that group
but only at lower wages relative to non-minorities. This discriminatory practice drives minorities such as gays and lesbians toseek
employment with non-discriminating employers, and wage differences occur when the number of minorities seeking employment
exceeds the number of positions available at non-discriminating employers.
The household specialization model (Allegretto & Arthur, 2001; Badgett, 1995; Becker, 1993; Black, Makar, Sanders, & Taylor,
2003; Carpenter, 2005; Clain & Leppel, 2001; Klawitter & Flatt, 1998) is based on the premise that the lower the skill level one
has, the less compensation one is likely to earn. This suggests that compared to heterosexual women, lesbian women may
accumulate more marketable skills and human capital while they are young, because they know from an early age that they are
unlikely to marry into traditional households where males are the primary breadwinner. On a similar note, gay men are less
likely to accumulate marketable skills and human capital, as they assume that they will be in a relationship with another
Another perspective offered to explain sexual orientation wage differentials is that of occupational sorting or clustering
(Blandford, 2003; Klawitter & Flatt, 1998). Gay men and lesbians may consider the ability to be open in the workplace as a
non-monetary reward and may factor this into their total compensation equation to mentally justify working in a lower
paying occupation. Accordingly, Ellis and Riggle (1995) found that lesbians and gay men were more likely to work in an
occupation in which they would be able to be open about their sexual orientation in the workplace and that they would forego
higher paying jobs in occupations where sexual orientation would have to be masked. They also found that gay men
were more likely to choose occupations that were female-identiﬁed, which could play a role in having lower wages due to the
gender wage gap.
5.1. Antecedents and consequences of heterosexism and discrimination in the workplace
Societal-level antecedents of sexual orientation discrimination include state legislation prohibiting sexual orientation, and
similar proposed national legislation (Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Ragins & Cornwell, 2001). Organizational-level
antecedents include company policies, gay-friendly culture, offering same-sex partner beneﬁts, inviting same-sex partners to
social events, work climate, group-level dynamics, and work group composition (Button, 2001; Driscoll, Kelley, & Fassinger, 1996;
Grifﬁth & Hebl, 2002; Ragins & Cornwell, 2001; Ragins et al., 2003).
Employee-level antecedents of sexual orientation discrimination include religiosity, beliefs in traditional gender roles, beliefs
regarding the controllability of sexual orientation, and personal contact with gay men and lesbians (Horvath & Ryan, 2003).
Consequences of heterosexism include fewer promotions (Ragins & Cornwell, 2001), higher stress (Waldo, 1999), and lower
compensation in the case of gay men (Badgett, 1995; Berg & Lien, 2002; Black et al., 2003; Blandford, 2003; Brown, 1998; Clain &
The literature on sexual orientation diversity in organizations has been shaped by a heterosexism and discrimination
focus. Although these issues are important, more work is needed that focuses on sexual orientation from an inclusiveness
perspective. Deitch et al. (2004) noted that the gay employee's workgroup has the most impact on that employee's workplace
experience and that more research should be directed at understanding these interpersonal relationships at work. Horvath and
Ryan (2003) suggested that more research be done on reactions to gay and lesbian employees in general, rather than on simply
gathering data from gay and lesbian employees. In addition to including a broader diversity and inclusiveness perspective, these
suggestions may be useful in providing greater understanding of the relationships among variables in this literature.
123L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
6. Cultural and national origin diversity
Culture is “broadly deﬁned as characteristic ways of thinking, feeling and behaving shared among members of an identiﬁable
group”(Gibson & Gibbs, 2006, p. 460). While some elements of culture are visible and observable (e.g., accent, religious apparel),
others are subtle due to varying degrees of acculturation (e.g., a second or third generation Italian immigrant who holds cultural
attributes from his or her family along with attributes acquired from a variety of cultures while dwelling in the United States). In
the U.S., for example, it would seem that understanding cultural diversity in organizations should account for three groups at a
minimum: U.S.-born employees working in a U.S. workgroup, non-U.S. born employees working in a U.S. workgroup, and U.S. and
non-U.S. born employees working in a multinational workgroup. Many studies focus on culture as the basis for racial and ethnic
differences, but often without thorough conceptual development. Likewise, it is not always clear which sources of cultural effects
may be inﬂuential (e.g., race and ethnicity, region of the U.S., religion). Our review of the literature on cultural/national diversity
shows few empirical studies, almost all simplifying the measurement of culture (e.g., Cox, Lobel, & McLeod, 1991).
A central tenet of culture is the movement and adjustment of a group of people from one nation to another. Cross-cultural
psychologists have relied on acculturation theories to examine this movement (Berry, 1980, 1985,1990, 1997; Berry, Kim, Minde, &
Mok, 1987; Berry, Kim, Power, Young, & Bujaki, 1989; Berry & Sam, 1997). According to this body of research, an immigrant (or
migrant) group can (1) reject its own culture and that of the host society (marginalization), (2) reject its own culture and accept
that of the host society (assimilation), (3) maintain its own culture and reject that of the host society (separation), or (4) maintain
its own culture and accept that of the host society (integration). Assumptions of the integration approach are that immigrants can
assimilate the values, beliefs, and ideologies of both the dominant, mainstream group and their own cultural group, and that such
an integration has positive outcomes. However, Bhatia and Ram (2001) argued that immigrants had to face a constant process of
conﬂict while developing hybrid identities. As such, we need to take into account the constant tension that immigrants might have
to deal with regarding different identities, which represent varying degrees of cultural integration. As employees in a workgroup,
immigrants can draw on these identities to inﬂuence social, organizational, group, and individual outcomes (Cox et al., 1991).
Cultural and national diversity in organizations can be seen from a pessimistic view or an optimistic view (c.f., Mannix & Neale,
2005). The pessimistic view is derived from social identity (Tajfel, 1981) and similarity-attraction (Byrne, 1971) paradigms, which
postulate that individuals have a preference for their own group. Cultural diversity generates in-group allegiance (Pelled, 1996) and
distractions (Thomas, 1999) that are detrimental to group performance. An alternative optimistic view contends that cultural
diversity facilitates information processing, learning, and problem solving capacity (Cox et al., 1991; Ely & Thomas, 2001) and
reduces groupthink (Janis, 1982). Under this optimistic view, cultural diversity is conceived to be beneﬁcial to group performance.
While the logic for the positive and negative effects of cultural diversity is clear, the deﬁnition, measurement, and empirical
examination of the effects of cultural diversity in organizations have been a real challenge (Barinaga, 2007).
Similar to the mixed research ﬁndings we discussed earlier regarding racial/ethnic diversity and work outcomes, past research
has found that the effect of cultural homogeneity (or heterogeneity) on individual effectiveness and group performance was not
consistent and inconclusive (Bochner & Hesketh,1994; Earley & Mosakowski, 2000; Kirchmeyer & Cohen,1992; Maznevski,1994;
Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000; Milliken & Martins, 1996; Thomas, 1999; Watson et al., 1993). While cultural differences inﬂuence
organizational outcomes, there is some debate on whether the effects are negative or positive (Barinaga, 2007; Gelfand, Erez, &
6.1. Antecedents and consequences of cultural diversity
Ely and Thomas (2001) proposed three reasons why an organization would encourage cultural diversity. First, an organization
could adopt cultural diversityas a moral end to correct historic discrimination (i.e., discrimination-and-fairness perspective). Second,
an organization could embrace cultural diversity to gain access to the markets of a cultural or national group (i.e., access-and-
legitimacy perspective). Third, an organization could promote cultural diversity as seen as a resource for learning (integration-and-
learning perspective). After examining several cases in order to identify when diversity enhances or hinders work group functioning,
Ely and Thomas (2001) concluded that the integration-and-learning paradigm was the superior form of managing cultural diversity.
However, as with other dimensions of diversity we discussed earlier, research on cultural diversity still needs to reﬁne
operationalization so as to further improve its construct and predictive validity. For example, Cox et al. (1991) argued that Asian,
Hispanic, and Black Americans belong to a collectivist culture, whereas Anglo Americans belong to an individualist culture. Based
on this logic, Cox et al. hypothesized and found that Asian, Hispanic, and Black Americans would engage in higher levels of
cooperative behavior than Anglo Americans. While the hypothesis was supported, it is important to recognize that such
operationalization might create a potential problem of over-generalization and over-simpliﬁcation. A number of previous studies
took the same approach and deﬁned, measured, and examined cultural diversity as individualism-collectivism. Future research on
cultural diversity might be beneﬁted by incorporating a multi-dimensional approach when researchers operationalized cultural
differences (Hofstede, 1980,1997). A good example is a recent study conducted by Richard et al. (2004) that focused the deﬁnition
of cultural diversity on race and gender and then showed that race and gender interact with entrepreneurial orientation to
positively affect organizational performance.
Unlike many other facets of diversity (e.g., age, race, gender), developing the deﬁnition of cultural/national diversity and
creating coherency in this literature has been and continues to be a challenge. As greater numbers of global organizations utilize
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multinational or global teams to manage their international projects, researchers need to shed more light on how people with
different nationalities work together to achieve their collective goals. The need to increase our understanding of the effect of
nationality on team performance has been magniﬁed due to a heightened level of international mergers and acquisitions over the
past decade (Cartwright & Schoenberg, 2006). The number of foreign companies that set up their operations in the US has been
increasing in the past decade, which creates a much higher probability for many US workers towork with colleagues with different
nationalities. Diversity based on nationality potentially poses greater challenges when compared with ethnicity because cultural
differences (e.g., language, degree of acculturation, values, and norms) among team or organizational members tend to be larger
(Snow, Snell, Davison, & Hambrick, 1996). While assumed to be potentially beneﬁcial, the cultural differences associated with
national diversity can also be fraught with barriers to effective team functioning such as negative stereotyping and social
categorization (Dahlin, Weingart, & Hinds, 2005) and different expectations for communication practices (Earley & Gibson, 2002).
Research, for example, shows that nationally diverse teams may have problems unless leaders facilitate communication (Ayoko,
Hartel, & Callen, 2002).
7. Common themes and future research
In light of the massive body of literature related to diversity, it is important to seek some coherency in this literature to help
move it to the next stage of development. One means for doing so is to summarize the literature by focusing on common themes
and asking ourselves: (1) what did we learn from looking across all the diversity literatures we reviewed? (2) how can theories in
one diversity domain inform us about other dimensions of diversity? (3) are the theories interchangeable? and (4) how does
looking across the literatures focused on different dimensions of diversity inform us about what is really going on in organizations?
Below, we address these questions in an effort to spur new ideas and a new agenda for diversity research. However, a caveat is in
order. That is, each dimension of diversity reviewed above has evolved somewhat independently and often has been motivated by
different scholarly goals. Thus, some of the themes described below apply to all dimensions of diversity and others to subsets of the
7.1. Individual-level studies
7.1.1. Negative theoretical paradigms
Very few studies at the individual level suggest that diversity yields positive outcomes for individuals in minority positions (c.f.,
Chatman & O'Reilly, 2004), raising questions as to why this is the case. One possible explanation is the extensive use of theoretical
paradigms that yield negative predictions. The literatures concerning so many dimensions of diversity have relied heavily on
relational demography and similarity-attraction as theoretical frameworks (Riordan, 2000), even in more recent years when new
perspectives have been included in the literature alongside these more traditional perspectives(e.g., Umphress, Smith-Crowe, Brief,
Dietz, & Watkins, 2007). Three important assumptions of these theories are (a) people prefer others like themselves, (b) differences
make people uncomfortable which leads to better treatment of similar others, and (c) similar demographics equate to deeper
similarity. Assumptions (a) and (b) yield negative predictions, and may even promote the ignoring of neutral or positive results.
Relatedly, there is an over-reliance among scholars on a small sub-set of theories. As pointed out by Pedhazer and Schmelkin
(1991) in their discussion of theory, “Being a way of seeing, a theory is also a way of not seeing”(p. 182). When empirical evidence
does not support a theoretical view, often authors point to methodological ﬂaws, such as in sampling, measurement, or weak
manipulations. While ﬁeld research is especially easy to criticize methodologically, this also points to the ease with which potential
theoretical innovations may be ignored or dismissed. Thus, our scholarly approach to building knowledge may also contribute to
the tendency to rely on established theories and reject ideas that may occur serendipitously, perhaps encouraging a limited and
negative view of individual-level effects of organizational diversity.
7.1.2. Increasing focus on macro-level theories
A consistent trend in recent diversity research is the application of theories in which power and status play a primary role.
Several scholars have noted speciﬁcally howa more thorough explanation of their results was afforded by accounting for the status
differences or social dominance implied by speciﬁc demographic categories (e.g., Chatman & O'Reilly, 2004; Chattopadhyay, 2003;
Umphress et al., 2007; Van der Vegt, Van de Vliert, & Huang, 2005). This work highlights how the meaning people ascribe to
demographic categories is derived not only from calculations of similarity and difference relative to their immediate surroundings,
but also from broader societal-level connotations. For example, what are considered normal or “good”characteristics in one society
or country may not be the same in another society or country. In addition, there are strong societal expectations and roles that
imply a certain order or norm to be followed. This theme is apparent in a number of diversity domains. For example, in the age
literature, it is “expected”that those who are older also hold higher-level positions or age-appropriate positions (Lawrence,1990);
as a result, we may experience signiﬁcant discomfort when we see an older person working at McDonalds or a young manager with
middle-aged direct reports. Similarly, there are strong societal expectations for appropriate role behaviors from men and women.
For instance, according to social role theory (Eagly, 1987), women are expected to display communal attributes (sympathetic,
nurturing, gentle) while men are expected to display agentic characteristics (independent, aggressive, self-conﬁdent). Accordingly,
agentic qualities are considered a better ﬁt with being a leader than communal qualities (Eagly & Karau, 2002).
While work on stereotypes (DeArmond et al., 2006), prototype matching (Perry & Finkelstein, 1999), and demographic-based
expectations (Colella et al., 1997) also are suggestive of power and status differences, this movement towards more macro-level
125L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
explanations has advanced the literature in an encouragingly fruitful direction. In particular, although demographic attributes
cannot be readily modiﬁed, status and power are human constructions that may be more amenable to change. Other macro-
theoretical perspectives that offer promising alternative avenues of research include institutional theory (DiMaggio & Powell,
1991 ), symbolic interactionism theory (Stryker, 1980), and labor economics theories (Becker,1962). Each of these theories suggests
important macro-level contextual inﬂuences related to diversity. Also, according to Joshi and Roh (2007), there is a need to look
deeper into aspects of diversity context (discrete, proximal, omnibus and distal omnibus) in order to answer the what, when,
where and how questions in addition to “why.”These more nuanced types of theoretical approaches focusing on aspects of the
work context have the potential advantage of contributing to deeper and more generalizable conclusions across many dimensions
7.1.3. Leveraging domain-speciﬁc theories
Using status-based theories or traditional theoretical perspectives (e.g., social identity/self-categorization theories, Tajfel, 1981;
the similarity-attraction paradigm, Byrne, 1971) provides a basis of commonality across diversity dimensions, but using domain-
speciﬁc theories offers a potential for deeper insights. For instance, similarity-attraction and social identity theory are not able to
explain why race/ethnic minorities would judge the overall quality of interracial interactions during job interviews to be lower
than race/ethnic majority members, but aversive racism theory suggests that such minorities observe subtle non-verbal gestures
that indicate a subconscious aversion to minorities (McKay & Avery, 2006). Such domain-speciﬁc theories may also provide a basis
for insights into other select diversity domains. Building on the example above, aversive racism theory may have relevance to
perceptions of aversion in the disabilities domain. That is, applicants with disabilities may experience subtle gestures that have
similar effects as for racioethnic minority job candidates.
Other examples of domain-speciﬁc theoretical paradigms that would seem to apply to other diversity domains include visible
and invisible characteristics (Ragins & Wiethoff, 2005), stigma theory (Goffman, 1963), taste for discrimination theory (Becker,
1971), implicit inversion theory (Kite & Deaux, 1987), and response ampliﬁcation theory (Colella & Varma, 2001). Further, seeing
where these theories intersect could help to promote development of the diversity literature. For example, there could be some
interesting insights garnered from looking at the intersection of the visibility/invisibility dimension and stigma theory, since
together they inform us of why we stigmatize and under what conditions. If we tend to stigmatize those attributes about a person
that are most visible to us, this cuts across many attributes that are not always visible to others: sexual orientation, mix of races
(especially if more dominant features prevail), or mental disability. This visibility/invisibility dimension may be a factor that causes
signiﬁcant discomfort for the person who may be “hiding”his or her stigmatized status. A challenge for the person with an invisible
stigma is determining if and when to disclose their status (Ragins, 2008). Likewise, it may create embarrassment for other
individuals who have made and acted upon assumptions about an individual's majority group membership without realizing that
he or she may belong to a stigmatized group.
We also posit that theories from one domain mayapply to some, but not all diversity domains. Examining which theories apply
across particular domains may help to create new theories of diversity by facilitating deeper understanding of how diversity effects
operate both within and across domains. Thus, considering a wide arrayof theories across the social sciences as well as developing
new theories to explain diversity phenomena promises to facilitate enrichment of this body of scholarship.
7.2. Group-level studies
7.2.1. Surface-to-deep level diversity
Theories focusing on diversity effects on groups are much more likely than individual-level studies to propose neutral or
positive outcomes. Although the assumption of these theories seems to be that deep-level differences underlie surface-level
differences, research has concluded that demographic characteristics do not consistently relate in a meaningful way with
knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values (Harrison, Price, & Bell, 1998). An important question that needs empirical testing is which
dimensions of deep-level diversity might improve group success. Given the evidence supporting the potentially positive effects of
educational and expertise diversity (Dahlin et al., 2005; Van der Vegt, Bunderson, & Oosterhof, 2006), more research is clearly
needed on this issue. Likewise, strategic management theories such as the resource-based view of the ﬁrm (Barney, 1991)have
potential for helping to develop the basis for predicting value in diversity (Richard, 2000). Most importantly, theories that develop
the role of context seem to have a great deal of potential, as there may be multiple aspects of situations that interact with when and
how surface- and deep-level diversity serve to improve group and organization success. The ﬁrm's strategy (Richard, 2000),
organizational culture (Chatman & Barsade, 1995), and job design (Kossek, Zonia, & Young, 1996) are just a few of the situational
characteristics found to be inﬂuential in diverse groups and organizations. In sum, the value-in-diversity model (e.g., Cox, Lobel, &
McLeod,1991) has been applied to multiple dimensions of diversity with mixed success (Richard, Ford, & Ismail, 2006). This further
points to the need for research that explores what dimensions of diversity are valuable for group effectiveness, and the roles that
managers and organizational leaders may play in creating contexts in which such positive diversity effects may be found.
7.2.2. Antecedents of diversity
Antecedents to diversity seem to be most developed at the group and organizational levels. A consistent pattern across
dimensions of diversity is to consider how group composition, group or organizational climate, group-level dynamics, or a ﬁrm's
commitment to diversity relate to outcomes(Avery, McKay, Wilson, & Tonidandel, 2007; Karakowsky et al., 2004; Nelson & Probst,
2004; Ragins & Cornwell, 2001; Rau & Hyland, 2003). Implicit in many of these antecedents is the perceived managerial philosophy
126 L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
regarding diversity that underlies diversity in the group or ﬁrm. For example, Scheid (2005) found that employers with a coercive
(fear of lawsuit) as opposed to normative (belief that it is the right thing to do) rationale for compliance were more likely to hold
stigmatized attitudes toward those with disabilities. The range of philosophies towards diversity at these levels of analysis is
captured well by Ely and Thomas's (2001) qualitative study highlighting customer/market, compliance, and learning perspectives
towards diversity in groups. In addition, a large body of research on afﬁrmative action in relation to race and gender suggests the
importance of understanding antecedents to diversity efforts and the potential unintended consequences of such efforts if not
managed carefully (Harrison, Kravitz, Mayer, Leslie, & Lev-Arey, 2006; Heilman, 1994). Consideration of fairness and merit in
decisions pertaining to workforce diversity were found to be particularly important, and suggest the necessity of understanding
antecedents that contribute to successful organizational diversity efforts.
7.2.3. Multiple dimensions of diversity
We have focused on themes by considering patterns within and across the speciﬁc diversity dimensions we covered, but a
promising trend that extends beyond how we organized this review is the increased attention to including multiple dimensions of
diversity in the same study. Faultline research, for example, investigates the way in which individuals' multiple diversity
characteristics align with those of other work group members. This work has yielded interesting ﬁndings, including how faultlines
(or subgroups based on the alignment of group member's demographic characteristics) hold more explanatory power in regards to
satisfaction, expected performance, and team learning than considering single-attribute heterogeneity within groups (Lau &
Other studies that include multiple dimensions of diversity within the same study allow for theoretical insights about which
types of diversity attributes relate to outcomes and when they do so (Dahlin et al., 2005; Van der Vegt et al., 2005). For example,
Goldberg, Finkelstein, Perry, and Konrad (2004) found that younger men receive more promotions in old-typed industries, while
younger women received more promotions in young-typed ones. In addition, Barnum and Liden (1995) found disparity in pay rates
of women and minority group members compared to white men, increased with age. Such studies imply that age compositions and
age norms may interact with other dimensionsof diversity to inﬂuence opportunities of individuals and groups. Likewise, using race
and disability as an example, Kulik, Roberson, and Perry (2007) proposed a model explaining how situational and individual
difference variables inﬂuence decision makers' reactions to candidates that display multiple types of diversity. Such research
requires deeper understanding of the meaning of diversity and how it aids or hinders individual, group, and organizational goals,
than is often the case in current conceptualizations. One possible avenue for future research is greater use of qualitative studies (c.f.,
Janssens & Zanoni, 2007), which may aid in the development of new diversity paradigms that inform scholarly thinking on how
organizations successfully manage diverse workforces. Such research approaches may encourage the development of new insights
and perspectives that incorporate the inﬂuence of task, job, organization, and industry contexts.
Diversity research has progressed a great deal in the last 40 years. However, there are still noteworthy gaps that need to be
ﬁlled. Scholars have spent a signiﬁcant amount of time studying diversity from a reactive stance. Such a stance has historical and
present-day merit as prejudice and discrimination are still serious problems in society. However, this approach does not seem to
have yielded positive results for individuals or organizations. Diversity is typically viewed as something to deal with or manage. In
fact, in both practice and research, communications about diversity have been inundated with negative wording such as “abide by,”
“accommodate,”and “tolerate.”Choice of phrases and terms in language can signify how people interpret their diversity-related
experiences (Roberson & Stevens, 2006). Thus, diversity terminology can have a direct positive or negative inﬂuence on people
(Pati & Bailey, 1995) as well as having other more subtle, perhaps less conscious effects. Citing examples from the President's
Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, Pati and Bailey (1995) suggested that we use words that emphasize the
person rather than the disabling condition: “people with disabilities”versus “the disabled,”or “non-disabled person”rather than
“normal person”(which implies that a person with a disability is not normal). While changing diversity terminology to reﬂect
more positive views is a starting point, there is much more to be done.
In order to move forward, we need to change our originating paradigms which are primarily negative, emphasizing
discrimination and victimization, to explore diversity from a more positive and proactive standpoint. Questions, such as when and
in what ways diversityaids in organizational success, move the focus from management and control to opportunity and possibility.
A number of new questions come to mind from this more positive, proactive stance. Examples include asking subgroups to
describe how they would like to be treated, what they want others to know about them, and what aspects of their work
environment would need to change to create a highly functional organizational context with diverse employees.
There is some evidence to suggest that positive attitudes toward diverse others increase the likelihood of successful diversity
management (Sawyerr et al., 2005). Researchers have already begun to develop ideas that move in a more proactive and positive
direction such as diversity climate (McKay et al., 2007) and inclusiveness (Janssens & Zazoni, 2007; Roberson, 2006). We believe
that future diversity research should continue in these and other new directions that can contribute to the ability of employers of
diverse people to promote individual, group, and organizational success.
Based on our review, we conclude that it is challenging, but possible, to develop an integrative theory of diversity. Such an effort
will require meta-concepts that reﬂect the human experience. It is clear from our review that there are core human issues and
concerns embedded in the diversity literature that could form the basis for such a theory. Some of these core human elements
consist of organizational and managerial messages of respect, dignity, and clear value to the organization that are not tied to
127L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
demographic or cultural attributes. While many companies have put in place formal policies, procedures, and statements of
organizational values to ensure such elements, the evidence is unambiguous that these types of actions areonly starting points for
creating positive organizational environments for diverse people. There are many potential structural and process variables at
multiple organizational levels that need careful reﬂection and consideration in order for a uniﬁed diversity framework to be of
explanatory value for organizations.
In our review of the literature, we note several signiﬁcant themes that should be reﬂected in the integrative model of diversity
presented in Fig. 1. First, it is important to clarify aspects of context that affect diversity in organizations. Based on our review, there
appear to be contextual elements both outside the organization and inside the organization that may inﬂuence the prevalence and
impact of diversity. Some external aspects of context are the national culture (Stone-Romero & Stone, 2007), occupation (Heilman
& Okimoto, 2007), industry (Blum, Fields, & Goodman, 1994; Goodman, Fields, & Blum, 2003; Kochan et al., 2003), legal context
(e.g., a Title VII lawsuit; Kalev, Dobbin, & Kelly, 2006), economy (e.g., labor market; Fields, Goodman, & Blum, 2005), and family and
community in which the organization and its employees are embedded (Ragins, 2008). Each of these aspects of the context may
have separable effects with broad (e.g., the economy) or narrow (e.g., the employee's family) implications for individuals, groups,
and organizations. Likewise, internal organizational contextual effects include organizational culture, strategy, and human
resource practices (Kochan et al., 2003). In addition, depending on the size of the organization, there may be many different groups
and individuals that determine the extent to which the workforce is diverse, and whether diversity has positive, negative, or
neutral effects. The large number of contextual variables that affect organizations and their employees may well explain the
inconsistent results that are found pertaining to the effects of diversity (Jackson et al., 2003; Kochan et al., 2003; Webber &
A second theme in the literature is that diversity has been conceptualized and measured in a variety of ways, contributing to
conceptual confusion as well as detrimental effects on knowledge building (Harrison & Klein, 2007). Diversity has also been
studied at multiple levels, including the individual, the individual within the work group, the individual relative to the manager,
the work group, the management team, and the organization. In Fig. 1, the dashed double-headed arrow signiﬁes the variety of
potential ways to assess diversity within organizations, including across levels and within levels. As described in this review,
different theories have been applied and differenteffects shown across levels. For example,research has found that diversity at the
top management level can attract women and minorities to the organization (Kalev et al., 2006), and that race similarity between
managers and employees contributes to expectations that diversity is valued (Avery et al., 2007). More careful theorizing is clearly
necessary about the potential for inﬂuence across (e.g., downward and upward effects) as well as within levels (e.g. between
employees or units).
A third theme in the literature is that diversity has been linked to a variety of outcomes. Most commonly, diversity effects have
been examined in relation to equal employment opportunities at the individual level (c.f., Cox & Nkomo, 1990), work group
performance and conﬂict at the unit level (c.f., Van Knippenberg & Schippers, 2007), and ﬁrm performance at the organizational
Fig. 1. An integrative model of diversity in organizations.
128 L.M. Shore et al. / Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 117–133
level (c.f., Richard et al., 2006). Our model in Fig. 1 includes other types of important outcomes that are understudied in the
workplace diversity literature, including family and community outcomes and societal outcomes. For example, opportunities for
diverse people may enhance communities through both economic and social enrichment. Societies may also change as the result of
increased contact among diverse people provided in work settings and associated learning opportunities. There are double-headed
arrows between the two types of outcomes (work and non-work) and the organization to signify potential inﬂuences from the
organization to outcomes, and from outcomes to the organization.
At present, the diversity literature is as diverse as the individuals, groups and organizations that are the subjects of study. Much
work is needed, both theoretically and empirically, to develop a body of knowledge related to diversity in organizations. Most
importantly, scholars need to move beyond old paradigms and limited ways of thinking to develop integrative and practical
diversity theories that help organizational leaders create systems in which diverse human beings are able to thrive, and to help
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