The pursuit of diversity in student admissions and employee recruitment in organizations has been normative and even valorized within organizations for several decades. Yet, recent political events and legal decisions have made diversity-related strategies and rhetoric even more salient in the contemporary time. Using an organizational networks lens, I investigate these trends in a set of two papers co-authored with students. Prior research on organizational diversity management has largely relied on ethnographic techniques, which are indispensable for generating theoretical insights. The creation and analysis of organizational networks complements these methodologies by offering a wider lens to investigate general patterns.
First, in a paper published at Socioeconomic Review, my co-author and I develop a new concept, ‘downstream diversity,’ to refer to diversity in higher education partnerships with firms seeking to employ their students. Unlike the pursuit of diversity in student recruitment, which is deeply institutionalized, there are no legal, cultural, or institutional imperatives compelling education institutions to partner with firms that are deemed to be diverse. To investigate if schools and colleges, nevertheless, pursue this form of diversity, we analyze partnerships between hundreds of higher education institutions and accounting firms looking to hire their graduates. Conceptualizing these ties as a network, We find evidence against ties between elite schools and companies with high representation of Black persons in leadership positions. We find similar patterns in partnerships between elite accounting companies and HBCUs as well as other schools with high representation of Black students. Our findings show that, rather than mitigating them, recruitment partnerships reproduce race-based inequalities, and that commitments to diversity in academia and the accounting industry are largely ineffective.
We also find that elite firms ‘perform’ status-based diversity by recruiting across the academic prestige hierarchy, but recruit for choice consulting jobs from prominent schools and rank-and-file ones from others. This fracturing of accounting job profiles permits elite firms to strategically create heterogeneity in recruitment partnerships, which aids in consolidating their elite status.
In the second paper on organizational diversity management published Plos One, my collaborators and I use machine learning and quantitative network modeling to analyze statements issued by 356 colleges and universities in the United States in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Prior research investigating discourse on race in higher education demonstrates the prevalence of two paradigms. First, the ideology of ‘colorblind racism’ treats systemic racism - a form of racism where social, political, and economic institutions are organized in a way that disadvantages people of color - as having largely existed in the past. Consistent with this, higher education responses to prior race-related incidents on campus have emphasized individual prejudice, avoiding discussion of systemic racism. Second, ‘diversity’ orthodoxy, which treats race as a cultural identity and emphasizes the instrumental benefits of racial heterogeneity on campus, is commonplace in higher education.
Topic modeling of statements issued in 2020 reveals the prevalence of several themes including the systemic and enduring nature of racism in the United States, diversity orthodoxy, humanist responses reflecting rhetoric consistent with colorblind racism, and COVID-19 response strategies. ERGM reveals fragmentation in the discourse along expected lines - religiously affiliated schools and those located in Republican-voting states attend more to diversity and humanist themes, while elite schools, those in Democrat-voting states, and with high percentages of Black students are more focused on systemic racism. Overall, we find two striking rhetorical shifts on race discourse in higher education the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder: (1) from a colorblind ideology to discussing the systemic nature of racism in the United States, and (2) from acknowledging perpetrators but not the broader context of racism in on-campus incidents to acknowledging diffuse racism manifest in society but refraining from explicitly naming any perpetrators.
In ongoing work, my collaborators and I are analyzing the effect of commitments made in these statements and their variability by institutional status on the subsequent hiring of minority faculty and admissions of minority students.
Building on this work, I am launching a new project focused on the role of international workers in diversity management strategies in private sector organizations. Despite the increasing polysemy of diversity in private sector firms, international workers have largely been left out of the academic and organizational discourse on diversity. I have three goals in this new project. First, I will analyze public diversity strategy documents of the largest private sector employers of international workers with the goal of locating the role and place of international workers in diversity management. Second, leveraging a unique dataset on permanent resident applications, I will investigate if the elite network dynamics I discovered in recruitment partnerships between higher education and accounting companies are replicated for firms that are most invested in hiring international workers. Third, I will investigate the experience of international workers on diversity rhetoric and practices implemented by these firms.