Diversity as Impression Management

Edward H Chang, University of Pennsylvania


In recent years, increasing scrutiny has been placed on groups and organizations and their levels of diversity. Because groups and organizations have incentives to avoid negative scrutiny and often engage in attempts to manage impressions around scrutinized behaviors, I propose that at least some organizations attend to diversity for impression management reasons. In Chapter 1, I use Monte Carlo simulations to provide evidence that S&P 1500 companies strategically manage the levels of gender diversity of their boards of directors for impression management reasons. I also show that scrutiny and visibility moderate these effects, consistent with an impression management explanation. In Chapter 2, I draw on the idea that organizations may attend to diversity for impression management reasons to explore a potential intervention–namely, having people make multiple hiring or selection decisions at once as opposed to making them one at a time–to increase gender diversity in organizations. Finally, in Chapter 3, I explore whether organizations engage in a form of impression management I name “diversity washing,” whereby they mislead outsiders about their actual diversity levels or practices. I find evidence that members of certain demographic groups are systematically overrepresented in signals of diversity of some organizations, and this appears to be moderated by visibility. This dissertation highlights the importance of impression management in understanding contemporary diversity-related decisions in organizations.

Subject Area

Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Chang, Edward H, "Diversity as Impression Management" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27838305.