The Influence of Organizational Diversity Orientation and Leader Attitude on Diversity Activities

By Buttner, E. Holly; Lowe, Kevin B. et al. | Journal of Managerial Issues, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Organizational Diversity Orientation and Leader Attitude on Diversity Activities


Buttner, E. Holly, Lowe, Kevin B., Billings-Harris, Lenora, Journal of Managerial Issues


The U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003). Many multinational companies recognize the need to manage their diverse workforces as evidenced by the proliferation of diversity programs being implemented in multinational corporations (Wentling and Palma-Rivas, 2000). Recent research suggests that firms that effectively manage their workforce diversity may experience positive outcomes. For example, research indicates that firms with higher percentages of women managers report relatively higher financial performance (Shrader et al., 1997) and greater effectiveness (Richard and Johnson, 2001). Recognizing these evolving workplace trends, numerous scholars have addressed issues related to diversity in organizations (e.g., Carter, 2000; Cox, 2001).

The purposes of the present study are three-fold: first, to develop a robust measure of the extent of organizational diversity activities; second, to examine the influence of demographic characteristics and racial awareness on leader attitudes; and third, to investigate the influence of organizational diversity orientation and leader attitude on organizational diversity activities. First, Comer and Soliman (1996) in their survey of organizations' diversity practices found that while numerous companies have implemented diversity strategies, few have attempted to assess their diversity activities. The researchers call for development of measures of diversity initiatives. This study presents a scale measuring the extent of diversity initiatives for possible use in future research and in organizational assessments. A second purpose is to examine the influence of race, sex and racial awareness on leaders' attitudes toward diversity in organizational units not previously examined in the literature, that of U.S. college and university business schools. Evidence about the influence of demographic characteristics, used as proxies, for diversity attitudes in research has been mixed. This study provides evidence about the efficacy of using racial awareness instead of demographic characteristics of race and sex as proxies for diversity attitudes of highly educated organizational leaders. The third purpose is to explore the effect of an organization's orientation toward diversity and attitudinal influences of leaders on the extent of business unit diversity activities. These potential influences on diversity activities have not been examined in the research literature to date.

African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American and other minority students have been enrolling at U.S. colleges and universities at increasing rates over the past decade. About 30% of undergraduate students in 1999-2000 were minorities (Choy, 2002). However, in 2002-2003, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans comprised only 17% of U.S. undergraduate business students and 8% of MBA students (Shinn, 2003). In spite of the lagging minority business enrollment, there has been little published research examining diversity initiatives in business schools. Consistent with the trend in business organizations to implement diversity training and other initiatives, AACSB International (DiTomaso et al., 1998) has called for assessments or audits, including surveys to assess the current diversity climate in business schools. Studying business school leaders' attitude toward diversity is important because undergraduates' and graduates' diversity attitudes may be influenced by their school leaders' attitudes (Fairhurst and Starr, 1996). The graduates may take these attitudes into the workplace.

HYPOTHESES

Leaders' Attitude toward Diversity

Several studies have suggested that top management commitment and support of diversity initiatives is crucial to diversity change efforts (Konrad and Linnehan, 1992; Rynes and Rosen, 1995). Other empirical evidence regarding the influence of sex and race on organizational members' attitudes toward diversity issues has been mixed. …

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