Diversity Perspectives and Minority Nonprofit Board Member Inclusion

Ruth Sessler Bernstein, University of Washington Tacoma
Diana Bilimoria


Purpose - Using survey data of nonprofit board members from racial/ethnic minority groups, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how the three work group perspectives toward diversity theorized by Ely and Thomas (2001) - discrimination-and-fairness (P1), access-and-legitimacy (P2), and integration-and-learning (P3) - are associated with minority group members' inclusion experiences. Design/methodology/approach - The paper investigates how an organization's motivations for board diversity, as perceived by racial/ethnic minority board members, drive various organizational- and board-level practices and behaviors, and ultimately impact their experience of inclusion. The paper uses two different operationalizations of the diversity perspectives to assess their impact on minority board members' inclusion experiences. The hypothesized model was tested using partial least squares analyses on the responses of 403 racial/ethnic minority nonprofit board members. Findings - Regardless of the measure used, racial/ethnic minority board members experienced increased feelings of inclusion as the perceived operating perspective for board diversity changed from P1 to P2 to P3, while concurrently the mediating factors influencing inclusion experiences changed in significance. Findings support the importance of the integration-and-learning perspective for the experience of inclusion by racial/ethnic minority board members. Practical implications - Findings indicate that organizations that employ an integration-and-learning approach to diversity and focus on encouraging their majority group members to engage in inclusive behaviors, rather than on policies and procedures, will engender the racial/ethnic minorities' experience of inclusion. Originality/value - The paper quantitatively investigated how three organizational diversity paradigms are associated with the individual inclusion experiences of minority nonprofit board members.