UCL School of Management

5 July 2021

EDI initiatives must address identity threats for majority and minority groups

A range of different coloured and positioned silhouettes of heads

Research shows that a diverse workforce benefits both individuals and organisations and can lead to increased profitability, innovation and reduce societal inequality. However, there are some challenges that must be addressed to successfully foster an inclusive and diverse culture. Speaking with Business Graduate Association, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) experts, Clarissa Cortland and Felix Danbold explain that for EDI policies to be truly effective and embedded in an organisations’ culture, leaders must consider the identity threats concerning both minority and majority groups in the workplace.

Their research shows that being around members of different groups such as race, gender or nationality, can activate deep psychological anxieties for members of minority and majority groups leading them to feel a sense of threat. They examine how this threat may undermine employee wellbeing and the ability to work together harmoniously.

Clarissa and Felix say that typically minority groups experience ‘stereotype threat’, where they face a constant battle to not conform to negative stereotypes associated with their identity, whilst majority groups may experience ‘prototypical threat’, where they feel their sense of belonging is lost and are therefore resistant to diversity efforts. 

Organisations must tackle these challenges head-on, explain Clarissa and Felix. They need to acknowledge these feelings and implement initiatives to overcome identity threats. One recommendation they suggest for minority groups is for organisations to give employees platforms to voice their concerns around stereotype threats and normalise the discussion. To combat the feeling of prototypical threat amongst majority groups the pair suggest that organisations should change the way success is measured and change the language around certain roles typically associated with a predominant group to dispel the stereotypes.

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Last updated Thursday, 15 July 2021