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Managing diversity has become a primary concern of top U.S. corporations. In this paper, the authors develop a fact-based approach to modeling diversity management. They use the model to determine whether diversity-friendly corporations really do stand out from other companies by analyzing the strategies pursued by 14 large U.S. companies recognized for their diversity or human resource (HR) achievements. Finally, to understand whether best practices alone make a company diversity-friendly, they compare a number of characteristics of best diversity companies, best HR companies, and other companies, using quantitative and qualitative methods. They find that firms recognized for diversity are distinguished by a core set of motives and practices that resemble those presented in the best-practices literature, but that best practices per se may not enable a company to achieve a high level of diversity. Contextual factors, such as industry affiliation and company size, may be as significant as strategic factors in influencing the extent of a company’s diversity.

The research described in this paper was conducted under the auspices of RAND Labor and Population and is the final product of an Independent Research & Development (IR&D) project and results from the RAND Corporation’s continuing program of self-initiated research. Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research and development provision of RAND’s contracts for the operation of its U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development centers.

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