Lights, Camera, Action: Moving Beyond Performative Diversity Management to Drive Change

By: Quinetta Roberson, Derek R. Avery, Angelica Leigh

Roberson, Q., Avery, D., & Leigh, A. (2024). Lights, Camera, Action: Moving Beyond Performative Diversity Management to Drive Change. Academy of Management Perspectives.


As organizations are increasingly expressing their value for diversity and investing in efforts to create more equitable and inclusive workplaces and societies, such efforts have become scrutinized by critics. Often disparaged as being “woke,” firms have been stigmatized for public support of social initiatives. Much criticism derives from skepticism regarding organizations’ true motivation for engaging in social activism, which some consider antithetical to business purposes. More specifically, an awareness of, and active attention to, social issues are posited to derive from firms’ interests in creating an appearance of social consciousness to acquire resources or boost their own reputations. Drawing upon impression management theory, we explore performativity (i.e., inauthentic or insincere activity designed to make a positive impression on others) in diversity management. We present a typology for examining how organizational investment in and communication of diversity management influence stakeholder impressions and other outcomes. We also consider enabling conditions that may alter the likelihood of performativity in their actions. Based thereon, we offer a research agenda for examining impression management as a motivation for diversity management and understanding variability in firm approaches. We offer practice recommendations for engaging in diversity management to activate positive change and transform organizational structures and cultures.