Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 145, Issue 1, pp 33–48 | Cite as

The Paradox of Diversity Initiatives: When Organizational Needs Differ from Employee Preferences

  • Leon Windscheid
  • Lynn Bowes-Sperry
  • Jens Mazei
  • Michèle Morner


Women are underrepresented in the upper echelons of management in most countries. Despite the effectiveness of identity conscious initiatives for increasing the proportion of women, many organizations have been reluctant to implement such initiatives because potential employees may perceive them negatively. Given the increasing competition for labor, attracting talent is relevant for the long-term success of organizations. In this study, we used an experimental design (N = 693) to examine the effects of identity blind and identity conscious gender diversity initiatives on people’s pursuit intentions toward organizations using them. We used counterfactual thinking, derived from fairness theory, as a guiding framework for our hypothesis development and investigated the moderating influence of a forthcoming government-mandated gender quota as well as individual characteristics (e.g., gender). Participants reviewed statements regarding workplace diversity initiatives and rated either the initiatives’ effectiveness or indicated their intentions to pursue employment with organizations using them. Of those rating pursuit intentions, half were informed that the country in which they were conducting their job search was about to implement gender quotas. Results indicated a diversity management paradox such that initiatives perceived as more effective made organizations using them less attractive as employers. However, these negative perceptions were mitigated by a government-mandated quota, and also lower among women. Implications for the study and practice of diversity are discussed.


Diversity Diversity paradox Gender Quota Organizational attractiveness Pursuit intentions 



We wish to thank David Kravitz, Meinald Thielsch, and Daniel Kluger for their helpful comments and advice on this research project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research involving human participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflictof Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leon Windscheid
    • 1
  • Lynn Bowes-Sperry
    • 2
  • Jens Mazei
    • 3
  • Michèle Morner
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Reinhard-Mohn-Institute for Management and Corporate GovernanceWitten/Herdecke UniversityWittenGermany
  2. 2.College of BusinessWestern New England UniversitySpringfield, MAUSA
  3. 3.Organizational & Business PsychologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  4. 4.Reinhard-Mohn-Institute for Management and Corporate GovernanceWitten/Herdecke UniversityWittenGermany
  5. 5.German University of Administrative Sciences SpeyerSpeyerGermany

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