Volume 16
Issue S
Fall '18

Why the Business Case for Diversity is Wrong

Written By: Ian Maitland

Abstract

Diversity is an idea whose time has come. As with other ideas whose time came, because diversity resonates with the zeitgeist, it has received little critical scrutiny. What is true of diversity, broadly conceived, is also true of one of its contemporary rationales, namely the business case for diversity. That is the claim that demographically diverse groups outperform more homogeneous groups “even when those homogeneous groups are made up of the best problem-solving individuals.” In this article, I scrutinize the business case in the context of the acrimonious debate over the “underrepresentation” of women and minorities in tech firms. My findings suggest that the business case is founded on hype rather than sound empirics and conceptual rigor. What is more, the rhetorical violence of the campaign to force tech firms to diversify their workforces has undermined the foundations of cooperation in demographically mixed teams by setting race against race and sex against sex, thus putting at risk any possible gains from diversity.

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