Derek Avery, Wake Forest University

Lecture title:

What's in a Word? The Impact of Corporate Diversity Definitions on Organizational Performance


Derek Avery, Wake Forest University

Speaker(s) Web Pages:

Semester: Winter 2017

Date: Friday, January 20, 2017

Time: 1:30 - 3:00 PM

Venue: Room R1220, Ross School of Business

Additional Notes:

Derek Avery is Senior Associate Dean of Diversity & Global Initiatives and Sisel Professor of Management at Wake Forest University School of Business. His research examines how individual differences and diversity in the workplace affect employee experiences, behavior, and performance.


Before companies can implement diversity management initiatives successfully, they must first define diversity. Unfortunately, virtually no research considers if or how organizations define diversity or the implications of the composition of those definitions. The present study considers these strategic human resource management issues and examines the relationship between diversity definition dilution (quantitative and qualitative) and growth in the Fortune 500 companies’ financial performance over a four-year period. A content analysis of the Fortune 500 companies’ online diversity definitions showed that diversity definitions contained several types of characteristics in addition to more traditional legally protected categories (e.g., values, perspectives, traits, human capital). We incorporated our qualitative findings into quantitative analyses and found that, although definition dilution failed to influence diversity management efficacy or financial performance in general, its impact depended on the firm’s level of demographic diversity. For less diverse firms, having a longer definition (quantitative) corresponded in firms becoming better at managing diversity and, consequently performing better in general. However, focusing on locally protected dimensions and employee backgrounds (qualitative dilution) had the opposite effect. For more diverse firms, quantitative dilution had no impact, but focusing more on background (qualitative dilution) corresponded in greater diversity management efficacy and, in turn, financial performance.

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