Diversity Management

The pursuit of diversity in student admissions and employee recruitment in organizations has been culturally institutionalized for several decades. Yet, recent political events, including an ongoing case in the U.S. Supreme Court, have made diversity-related strategies and rhetoric even more salient in the contemporary time. I investigate these trends in a set of two papers co-authored with students.

First, in a paper forthcoming at Socioeconomic Review, my co-author and I develop a new concept, ‘downstream diversity,’ which refers 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 or institutional imperatives compelling HEIs to partner with firms that are deemed to be diverse. To investigate if schools and colleges, nevertheless, engage in this form of diversity, we analyze partnerships between hundreds of higher education institutions and accounting firms at college career fairs. We find dense connectivity between elite schools and firms. However, while elite academic institutions are exclusively connected to prestigious firms, the latter also recruit across the status spectrum. Yet, despite the accounting industry’s professed commitments to diversifying its workforce, we find prestigious accountancy firms are significantly less likely to recruit from HBCUs and programs that have high enrollments of Black students. Our results also show that elite schools are less likely to partner with firms with Black leadership. Overall, our findings demonstrate that public commitments to diversity may be doing little to increase the representation of minorities in the workforce.


In the second paper (revised and resubmitted to 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.