How to break the cycle of low workforce diversity: a model for change

O'Brien, Katherine R., Scheffer, Marten, van Nes, Egbert H. and van der Lee, Romy (2015) How to break the cycle of low workforce diversity: a model for change. PLoS One, 10 7: 1-15. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133208

Author O'Brien, Katherine R.
Scheffer, Marten
van Nes, Egbert H.
van der Lee, Romy
Title How to break the cycle of low workforce diversity: a model for change
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2015-07
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0133208
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Issue 7
Start page 1
End page 15
Total pages 15
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Abstract Social justice concerns but also perceived business advantage are behind a widespread drive to increase workplace diversity. However, dominance in terms of ethnicity, gender or other aspects of diversity has been resistant to change in many sectors. The different factors which contribute to low diversity are often hotly contested and difficult to untangle. We propose that many of the barriers to change arise from self-reinforcing feedbacks between low group diversity and inclusivity. Using a dynamic model, we demonstrate how bias in employee appointment and departure can trap organizations in a state with much lower diversity than the applicant pool: a workforce diversity “poverty trap”. Our results also illustrate that if turnover rate is low, employee diversity takes a very long time to change, even in the absence of any bias. The predicted rate of change in workforce composition depends on the rate at which employees enter and leave the organization, and on three measures of inclusion: applicant diversity, appointment bias and departure bias. Quantifying these three inclusion measures is the basis of a new, practical framework to identify barriers and opportunities to increasing workforce diversity. Because we used a systems approach to investigate underlying feedback mechanisms rather than context-specific causes of low workforce diversity, our results are applicable across a wide range of settings.
Keyword Work group diversity
Affirmative action
Sex differences
Stereotype threat
Male female
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Chemical Engineering Publications
Official 2016 Collection
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