The New Principle-Practice Gap: The Disconnect between Diversity Beliefs and Actions in the Workplace

Presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, August 2020 Forthcoming

35 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2020 Last revised: 16 Apr 2021

See all articles by Jamillah Bowman Williams

Jamillah Bowman Williams

Georgetown University Law Center

Jonathan Cox

University of Central Florida - College of Sciences, Department of Sociology

Date Written: August 31, 2020

Abstract

Following increased calls for racial justice, many organizations have pledged to play their part in dismantling systemic racism. One common step leaders take is to invest in diversity and inclusion programs. Yet, despite organizations’ bold claims to value diversity and the investment of billions of dollars on related efforts, workplace discrimination continues to be a major factor in the lives of people of color. Additionally, existing research highlights a principle-policy gap, wherein people--particularly White Americans--espouse support for the principles of diversity, yet their support wanes for policies that address inequalities. In this survey study, we explore attitudes about organizational diversity efforts and further examine how these beliefs shape workplace decision-making. Our analysis of open-ended responses reveals a major disconnect, where individuals say diversity is important in principle, yet in practice do not take actions to further the goals of diversity and inclusion programs, a phenomenon we label the “principle-practice gap.” We use diversity ideology as the theoretical link to help explain why this subtle resistance to action might occur. We find that the principle-practice gap is more pronounced for those who view diversity as important because it improves outcomes. Conversely, those who think diversity is an important goal because of workplace inequality are more likely to take action, such as promoting a Black man. These findings help reveal which people endorsing diversity in principle are more likely to take action and which tend to be more performative and less connected to practices that counter structural inequality.

Keywords: diversity ideology, racial attitudes, diversity, work, discrimination, racism, colorblind

Suggested Citation

Bowman Williams, Jamillah and Cox, Jonathan, The New Principle-Practice Gap: The Disconnect between Diversity Beliefs and Actions in the Workplace (August 31, 2020). Presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, August 2020 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3707104 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3707104

Jamillah Bowman Williams (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Jonathan Cox

University of Central Florida - College of Sciences, Department of Sociology ( email )

FL 32816-1400
United States

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