Implementing Grutter's Diversity Rationale: Diversity and Empathy in Leadership

47 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2012 Last revised: 6 Feb 2013

See all articles by Rebecca K. Lee

Rebecca K. Lee

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Date Written: July 6, 2012


This article examines the role of leadership in implementing the diversity rationale affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and argues that greater diversity and empathy are needed for effective leadership in diverse settings. In Grutter, the Court held that the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race in selecting students for admission did not violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. In so doing, the Court affirmed Justice Powell’s diversity rationale as expressed in an earlier case, Regents of University of California v. Bakke, in which he noted that "'the nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure' to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples." By endorsing this diversity justification, the Grutter Court acknowledged the interdependent relationship between diversity and leadership. The Court, however, did not describe the specific skills needed to lead in diverse environments and how such skills may be developed at school and afterward in the workplace. A number of businesses and other amici curiae reiterated Justice Powell’s reasoning in their amicus briefs in Grutter, largely supporting the Law School, but these amici also neglected to discuss the process by which leadership skills would be acquired and implemented in settings comprised of different groups of people. This article aims to fill in the missing piece of the discussion, and emphasizes the importance of diverse and empathetic leadership in supporting diversity efforts. If, as Grutter affirms, we want to build a nation with leaders broadly exposed to ideas as diverse as our nation’s population, then we must tailor the purpose and practice of leadership toward the realization of this goal.

Keywords: diversity, diversity rationale, leadership, empathy, workplace, organizations, affirmative action

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Lee, Rebecca K., Implementing Grutter's Diversity Rationale: Diversity and Empathy in Leadership (July 6, 2012). Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 19, p. 133, 2011, Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 2101573, Available at SSRN:

Rebecca K. Lee (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4268 (Phone)

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