How Women and Men Perceive Hypothetical Women-Targeted Diversity Initiatives in an Industry Dominated by Men: A Case Study of an FMCG Company.

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The study explores women and men employees’ perceptions of hypothetical diversity initiatives to understand what kinds of signals can be perceived. Women are classified as an underrepresented and men as an overrepresented group: the targets and non-targets of diversity initiatives respectively. Three hypothetical diversity initiatives are focused on: a mentoring programme for women’s career development; a diversity taskforce for women’s inclusion, and gender-balanced candidate slates during recruitment to improve women’s representation. The study finds that employees’ perceptions indicate fairness signals, inclusion signals and competence signals, confirming existing literature. This study’s contribution to theory is its finding of a new type of signal: problem signals, which communicates to underrepresented groups that there is a gender equality issue at the company. The study’s theoretical relevance is that negative signals can be perceived by underrepresented groups, contributing to existing theory that mainly highlights positive to this group. Its practical relevance is the finding that employees’ perceptions of hypothetical diversity initiatives’ signals can indicate potential unintended consequences, before implementation. Therefore, organisations’ decisions can be made beforehand to mitigate risk and preserve resources.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen