White men and minority groups have different definitions of “sufficient” diversity

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The technology industry is a white, male preserve, with women often relegated to lesser positions. In a recent diversity report, Facebook said since 2014 it had raised the number of women in technical jobs from 15% to 23%, and women in senior roles from 23% to 30%.

In the US, where the population is 51% female, what is the magic number that would make Facebook’s diversity effort a success in terms of gender?

These questions are at the heart of research by New York University’s Felix Danbold and UCLA Anderson’s Miguel Unzueta, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes.

Their work, which incorporates findings from seven studies, suggests that the groups people belong to and their relative standing in society play a crucial role in their perception of when an organization crosses the so-called “diversity line.” Danbold and Unzueta’s research indicates that the white men who dominate Facebook are likely to view the company’s diversity efforts as a success while the women are likely to want a higher representation of women in technical and leadership roles before declaring victory.

Previous research has shown that diversity is a “nebulous construct subject to biased interpretations along group lines,” according to Danbold and Unzueta. However, they show how bias influences perceptions of diversity that are based on numerical representations, introducing an element of order to a topic many would regard as amorphous. (read more)

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