Managing Organizational Gender Diversity Images: A Content Analysis of German Corporate Websites
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- Windscheid, L., Bowes-Sperry, L., Jonsen, K. et al. J Bus Ethics (2016). doi:10.1007/s10551-016-3292-6
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Although establishing gender equality in board and managerial positions has recently become more important for organizations, companies with low levels of gender diversity seem to perceive an ethical dilemma regarding the ways, in which they attempt to attain it. One way that organizations try to move toward gender equality is through the use of their corporate websites to manage potential applicants’ impressions of their current levels of, and actions to improve, gender diversity. The dilemma is whether to truthfully communicate their low level of gender diversity, conceal it, or exaggerate it. On the one hand, organizations that are truthful may find it difficult to achieve equality because women are less attracted to companies that lack diversity. On the other hand, organizations that are untruthful risk their moral legitimacy. The present work investigates gender diversity-related communication on the corporate websites of 99 major German companies. Based on theoretical work on minority attraction, we apply an organizational impression management taxonomy to guide our in-depth content analysis. With this approach, we hope to advance the understanding of how the issue of gender diversity is presented on corporate websites, which is useful for both organizational decision makers as well as diversity researchers. We found that although gender diversity-related communications on corporate websites contain both assertive and defensive organizational impression management tactics, as well as a third type of tactic we refer to as “acknowledgement,” assertive tactics were used more frequently. We argue the existence of a paradox whereby organizations use assertive impression management tactics to maintain pragmatic legitimacy but compromise their moral legitimacy by doing so. Furthermore, we argue that moral legitimacy can be maintained or restored through the sincere use of defensive impression management tactics and acknowledgement.