Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2011

Keywords

corporate boards, corporate governance, race, gender, diversity

Abstract

In this article, we report the results of a series of interviews with corporate directors about racial, ethnic, and gender diversity on corporate boards. On the one hand, our respondents were clear and nearly uniform in their statements that board diversity was an important goal worth pursuing. Yet when asked to provide examples or anecdotes illustrating why board diversity matters, many subjects acknowledged difficulty in illustrating theory with reference to practice.

This expressed reluctance to come to specific terms with general claims about the value of director diversity inspired our title phrase: dangerous categories. That is, while "diversity" evokes universal acclaim in the abstract, our respondents’ narratives demonstrate that it is an elusive and even dangerous subject to talk about concretely. So we are left with narratives that simultaneously extol difference and express embarrassment with it.

This expressed reluctance to come to specific terms with general claims about the value of director diversity inspired our title phrase: dangerous categories. That is, while "diversity" evokes universal acclaim in the abstract, our respondents’ narratives demonstrate that it is an elusive and even dangerous subject to talk about concretely. So we are left with narratives that simultaneously extol difference and express embarrassment with it.