This study aims to examine the development of diversity and inclusion (D&I) literature and identify its prominent themes and blind spots. The research was conducted using bibliometric analysis on the Web of Science database and included 2510 publications. Results showed that the development of D&I literature had increased exponentially since the 1960s, mainly due to different political and societal events. The geographic development showed that research was primarily conducted in developed countries where quotas and other legislation are implemented. The thematic development revealed a stable but narrow focus on diversity management, board diversity, and team diversity, with little attention to inclusion. The keyword analysis strongly emphasized surface-level diversity, such as gender, race, and cultural diversity, while deep-level diversity received less attention. This study concludes that previous D&I literature has mainly focused on the financial effects of D&I and neglected other elements, such as the effects on social performance, its ethical implications, and the relationship between diversity and inclusion. The study recommends future research to expand the interpretation of diversity, examine the relationship between diversity and inclusion, and explore the effects of diversity on non-financial outcomes such as social performance and ethics. This study provides a valuable contribution to the field of business ethics by highlighting the blind spots in D&I literature and encouraging future research to consider the ethical implications of diversity in the workplace.
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Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have become strategic topics for many organizations nowadays.1 Previous studies indicate that adopting D&I practices can improve team performance (e.g., Mayo & Woolley, 2016), financial performance (e.g., Ahmed et al., 2018), problem-solving (e.g., Carmeli et al., 2010), quality of work (e.g., Randel et al., 2018), innovation and creativity (e.g., Bassett-Jones, 2005), engagement (e.g., Miller et al., 1996), and a better connection to the market (e.g., Edwards-Schachter et al., 2012). Moreover, organizations that manage D&I well are perceived as better employers, increasing their position in the labor market and chances of survival (Lozano & Escrich, 2017; Rabl et al., 2020). Hence, well-managed D&I can lead to a competitive advantage (Campbell & Mínguez-Vera, 2008; Porter & Kramer, 2007, 2011). Regardless of potential economic benefits, the increased interest in D&I is mainly caused by a shift in the social perception of the role of businesses in society. From this viewpoint, becoming a diverse and inclusive organization is considered a valuable strategic objective, regardless of other benefits in corporate performance (Lozano & Escrich, 2017; Rabl et al., 2020). This ethical perspective is rooted in the idea that businesses should be representative of the society they operate in (Gilbert et al., 1999). Whereas up to half a century ago, most companies were largely homogenous in composition, social expectations of contemporary businesses have radically changed. In most western countries, it is no longer considered acceptable when, e.g., higher management levels are dominated mainly by white males. Institutional pressures by legislation or pressure groups force businesses to adopt strategies and hiring practices to become more diverse (Agocs & Burr, 1996).
The academic literature reflects this normative approach toward diversity and inclusion. Up to the 1960s, it was mostly the academic field of humanities, sociology, and anthropology, that discussed topics related to diversity and inclusion. Early research and literature on diversity and inclusion primarily focused on racial groups, with affirmative action (AA) coming out of the civil rights movement and organizations dedicated to addressing racial inequality. However, the addition of “sex” to AA and the Civil Rights Act in the US marked a shift toward addressing gender diversity issues. Nevertheless, it took until the late 1980s for diversity became a strategic issue for organizations. A report on employment in the twenty-first century stated that in 2000, only 15% of the net new labor market entrants would be White men, and 50% of the workforce would be female (Johnston, 1987), sparking interest in diversity as a strategic issue for organizations. While these predictions were misinterpreted by some, it helped to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion. From the 1990s onwards, societal changes and recent developments regarding quotas in many Western countries ensured that a wider variety of researchers gained interest, particularly scholars focusing on the effects of diversity and the possibility for women to enter higher management positions (Clayton & Zetterberg, 2018; Thomas, 1990). From that point onwards, the concept of inclusion entered the management literature, and more researchers discussed diversity and inclusion, introducing the D&I acronym.
The process of globalization emphasizes the strategic importance of managing diversity in, among others, culture, gender, religion, and values within organizations and how this affects inclusion. Businesses are confronted with ethical dilemmas when operating in a multicultural environment, in which the importance of one identity group may conflict with the values or interests of others, causing tensions within the organization (Melé & Sánchez-Runde, 2013). For organizations to reap the benefits of diversity and for employees to appreciate and learn from their colleagues, effective implementation is crucial. Otherwise, there is a possibility of encountering adverse outcomes. Previous studies find that an increase in diversity can hurt the level of inclusion in an organization, as diversity can create conflict and turnover (e.g., Jehn et al., 1997; Kabat-Farr & Cortina, 2012; Tsui et al., 1992), although other studies find no clear relationship (Shore et al., 2018) or a mixed relationship between diversity and inclusion, with only gender showing a positive relationship between an increase in diversity and the level of inclusion (Findler et al., 2007). It appears that the impact of diversity within an organization depends to a large extent on how well it is managed. While many organizations develop specific initiatives to improve their level of diversity (Georgeac & Rattan, 2023), it remains unclear what the effects of these initiatives are (e.g., Roberson, 2019).
Despite the increased practical importance and academic interest, many aspects of diversity and inclusions need to be better understood. The thematic focus of D&I within the management literature has evolved over the years, and there is a need to clarify which areas are well-researched and which important themes are overlooked (Roberson, 2019). This study aims to fill this research gap by systematically analyzing management journals' current and past foci on D&I-related topics, synthesizing and classifying prominent themes throughout different periods, identifying blind spots, and providing future research directions. Our study is the first to conduct a bibliometric analysis on the entire research area of D&I within management literature, with no time restrictions and hence contributes to previous bibliometric studies focused on gender diversity (Baker et al., 2020; Mumu et al., 2022), and diversity management (Yadav & Lenka, 2022).
This review includes a sample of 2510 publications on D&I from the late 1950s until mid-2022. We conducted different bibliographic methods, such as citation analysis, bibliographic coupling, and keyword co-occurrence analysis. The results identified three prominent themes in the literature: diversity management, board diversity, and team diversity. We found different research gaps that should be further examined in future research, namely the lack of inclusion research, the lack of research on other dimensions than gender diversity, and a lack of research on ethics; most studies focus on the effects of diversity on organizational performance.
For organizations to know how to manage D&I effectively, the academic literature should take a broader perspective on D&I and move toward what practices and strategies work for whom, in what situations, and, more importantly, why. Moreover, the focus should shift toward a model where diversity and inclusion are defined and researched as two different concepts, as this review shows these are not closely related. In general, more focus should be on better understanding the interaction effects between diversity and inclusion, what affects the level of D&I in organizations, and what its effects are on the social performance of organizations. Practitioners can use the results of this review to reflect on what they (do not) know about managing D&I effectively and should be careful with implementing D&I practices based on research as the results still need to be completed, specifically on the indirect effects of D&I.
This study is structured as follows. In the next section, we describe our research approach, presenting the main results of our bibliometric analysis. We conclude this study by discussing these results and suggestions for future research directions.
This study aims to identify prominent themes in the D&I literature, how they developed over time, and whether this leads to under-researched topics. This study uses a bibliometric analysis approach, which allows for identifying publication patterns and intellectual structure (Donthu et al., 2021). We use this approach to identify blind spots, both geographically and thematically.
This research focuses on the development of D&I literature within business and management, so to identify what publications to include, we started an initial search in Web of Science (WoS) using the keywords’ diversity’ and ‘inclusion,’ and the categories ‘business’ and ‘management.’ The search results included 12,016 publications and was conducted on 1 July 2022 (see Table 1). WoS was used for the search process, as it holds articles from most databases, such as Emerald and Business Source Complete. We conducted different analyses to ensure this sample held relevant publications. These analyses showed the level of global versus local citations of the publications. Global citations (GC) are the number of times the publication is cited, whereas local citations (LC) are the number of times the publication is cited within the sample. A high percentage of LC compared to GC implies a high level of relevance for our sample (Baker et al., 2020). The highest cited publications were analyzed, and we found a discrepancy between GC and LC in our sample, implying that some publications were irrelevant to our research questions. Almost all articles with a low level of LC did not have diversity or inclusion in the title. Therefore, we changed the search string and only searched in the title instead of the topic. Then, we conducted a keyword and co-occurrence analysis and found many of the following keywords irrelevant to our research: financial inclusion, innovation, and diversification. Therefore, we chose to exclude these keywords from our final sample.
Search strategy of both the initial and final search
Web of Science
Web of Science
Topic: (diversity) OR (inclusion)
Title: (divers*) OR (inclusi*)
article OR review article
article OR review article
Topic: financial inclusion OR diversification OR innovation
1 July 2022
12 July 2022
As recent developments have also included equity in much D&I research, resulting in the DEI acronym, we also include equity in one of our initial searches. A search within business and management literature on equity in the topic resulted in over 9000 results. An analysis of these results showed that equity is strongly related to brand equity, markets, risk, (equity) ownership, customer equity, and justice, with only the latter being interesting for this study. Then, we analyzed the searches with equity and diversity or inclusion in the topic, and found 423 results, indicating these studies could be of relevance to our research question. Scanning the titles showed that most studies included (an abbreviation of) diversity or inclusion in the title. We therefore chose to not include equity as an additional keyword in our search.
We conducted our final search in WoS with the following restrictions: ‘divers*’ or ‘inclusi*’ in the title, the Asterix meaning that any conjugation of these words will be included; document type ‘article’ or ‘review article’; language: English; categories: Business or Management; and, excluding the following words in the topic: ‘financial inclusion,’ ‘innovation,’ or ‘diversification.’ We used this search string as initial searches indicated that this would include the highest number of relevant publications. Only peer-reviewed publications are included to ensure a form of quality assessment. Our sample included 2510 publications and is based on a search on 12 July 2022. Conducting the same initial analyses, we found a more coherent sample with a higher and more constant percentage of LC.
We use this final sample to conduct our primary analyses. We use the software package VOSviewer, which enables us to run these analyses pragmatically with a graphical representation (Donthu et al., 2021; van Eck & Waltman, 2010). First, we conduct publication and citation-related metrics to identify the general trends in D&I literature. Second, we examine the geographical development of D&I literature by identifying the most highly cited and published countries and journals. Third, we identify prominent publications using citation analysis, as the number of citations is seen as the most objective to measure the impact of a publication (Donthu et al., 2021; Pieters & Baumgartner, 2002; Stremersch et al., 2007). We also conduct a separate analysis to identify the current focus of D&I literature (Kar et al., 2022) by identifying recent prominent publications using the ‘180 days usage count,’ which is the number of times a publication has been accessed or saved during this period (Janavi, 2020). It can be used as an addition to the citation analysis (Markusova et al., 2017). Fourth, to unravel the thematic structure, we aim to identify the most prominent themes within D&I literature using a keyword co-occurrence analysis. Frequently used keywords are a good indicator of the topic of a publication (Donthu et al., 2021). The co-occurrence of keywords identifies the composition and clustering of keywords, which enables us to identify prominent themes. To understand recent developments and prominent themes, we create a subsample with all articles published between 2017 and 2022. This sample is then analyzed using a bibliographic coupling, a method best used within a specific timeframe (Donthu et al., 2021). Bibliographic coupling assumes that two publications sharing standard references are similar thematically (Kessler, 1963; Weinberg, 1974), which gives visibility to recent and niche publications (Donthu et al., 2021).
The sample consists of 2510 publications written by 5340 different authors. While two or more authors wrote most publications, 532 were written by a single author. The publications have been published by 1965 different organizations in 449 different journals. 7778 keywords were used to describe the publications within our sample, and the sample has been cited 462,645 times, with an average of 40 citations per publication. The publication with the highest number of citations (1675) is Jehn et al. (1999). In total, 100 countries have contributed to research on D&I, which means the topic has considerable attention worldwide.
Figure 1 shows the number of publications on diversity and inclusion per year using a log scale. The first publication is from 1957, and since then, the body of knowledge on D&I has been growing exponentially. In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement addressed racial inequality with affirmative action as a result: policies or programs that aimed to provide opportunities to historically disadvantaged groups, such as women and racial minorities, in areas such as education, employment, and business, and end the preferential treatment to historically advantaged groups (Agocs & Burr, 1996; Dobbin & Kalev, 2021; Thomas, 1990). It is important to note that the early research and literature on diversity and inclusion in the US was more focused on racial groups than on gender. However, starting in the 1970s, there was a growing focus on ensuring equal rights for women in the workplace (Dobson et al., 2017), which evolved in more attention to gender diversity issues in affirmative action and research. This could explain the starting point of studying D&I within business and management.
In the late 1980s, the Workforce 2000 report stated that in the year 2000 only 15% of the net new labor market entrants would be White men (Johnston, 1987). In the following years, women and other minorities could contribute to the labor force but had few opportunities to further their careers in (middle) management or leadership positions (Clayton & Zetterberg, 2018; Thomas, 1990). This new organizational issue could explain the increase in publications since then.
In the years that followed, more attention was given to equal rights for men and women, and many European countries introduced legislation to have more women on corporate boards or political functions (Clayton & Zetterberg, 2018; Dobson et al., 2017). The start of the global financial crisis lowered trust in the status quo, so research on the effects of board diversity increased (Baker et al., 2020). This shift toward more research on board diversity had the most significant impact on increased attention to gender and diversity issues. The focus on diversity likely expanded from ethnic minorities and gender, to age, disability, religious, and LGBTQ+ issues. However, identifying individuals and their smaller numbers resulted in limited attention and publications on these topics. The significant impact slight drop in 2022 is explained by the fact that only the first half of 2022 has been included in the data set.
We examine the geographical development of D&I literature by identifying the countries and journals with the highest number of publications. First, we explore the number of publications and citations per country. The results are presented in Table 2. The United States of America has the highest number of publications (956) and citations (60,519) as one of the largest developed countries and the first to introduce AAP (Thomas, 1990); this can be expected (see Table 1). The United Kingdom is in second place regarding publications (291) and citations (9269). Except for the United States and Canada, all other countries have introduced a form of gender quotas (Baker et al., 2020; Clayton & Zetterberg, 2018). These ten countries are responsible for 88 percent of the total publications and include mainly Western countries. These results show that D&I literature has mainly focused on research in developed countries, especially where gender quotas are introduced.
Countries and journals with the highest number of publications and citations in D&I literature
United States of America
Journal of Business Ethics
International Journal of Human Resource Management
Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion
Human Resource Management
Peoples Republic of China
Academy of Management Journal
Journal of Business Research
Journal of Organizational Behavior
Journal of Applied Psychology
Second, we identify the ten highest-publishing journals, the results of which are also presented in Table 1. These ten journals account for almost twenty percent of all publications, showing a higher density in the high-publishing countries than in journals. The leading journals are the Journal of Business Ethics (90 publications), the International Journal of Human Resource Management (66 publications), and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (65 publications). The level of quality, based on the number of citations, differs. The Academy of Management Journal (9894 citations) and the Journal of Business Ethics (7203 citations) are the highest-cited journals. Both in terms of publications and citations, the Journal of Business Ethics is an essential journal for publications on D&I. The journal Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion has a low citation score (260 citations) compared to its number of publications, but this can be explained by the fact that this is a relatively new journal, which was first published in 2017. Interestingly, four out of ten journals focus on Human Resources, indicating that D&I literature is mainly related to this topic.
To unravel the thematic development of D&I literature, we conduct several analyses. First, we aim to identify the highly cited publications to identify the core knowledge within D&I literature. Then, we conduct a keyword analysis to see what topics have been mainly researched and identify the main themes within the field. Table 2 shows the ten articles with the highest number of citations and includes a distinction between the number of GC and LC, where a high number of LC implies that a publication is highly relevant within the research field of D&I. Publications with a percentage of less than five percent of LC compared to GC were excluded. Based on Table 3, the articles by Harrison and Klein (2007), Jehn et al. (1999) and Pelled et al. (1999) are the most influential in the D&I research field. When we analyze the titles of these highly cited articles, we find that the words ‘performance’ and ‘effects’ or ‘outcomes’ of diversity occur in 8 out of 10 publications; none of the publications included the word ‘inclusion’ in its title. These results imply that the core knowledge within D&I literature has been on diversity, not inclusion, and its relation with (financial) performance.
Publications within D&I literature with the highest number of global citations (GC) and local citations (LC; number of publications within the sample)
Time, teams, and task performance: Changing effects of surface- and deep-level diversity on group functioning
Campbell and Minguez-Vera (2008)
Gender diversity in the boardroom and firm financial performance
The keyword analysis identified the most used keywords (see Table 4). Performance has the highest occurrence (465), followed by diversity (426), management (352), impact (288), and firm performance (278). The high occurrence of (firm) performance implies that the relationship with D&I is a much-researched topic, which other literature studies on diversity underline (Patrício & Franco, 2022; Reis et al., 2007). The most researched aspect of diversity is gender and adding the keywords gender (216), women (246), and gender diversity (199), they occur 661 times, higher than the number one keyword performance. This implies that gender diversity is the most researched topic within the D&I research field. The keyword inclusion occurs relatively little (137); this could be explained by the fact that inclusion is a new phenomenon within D&I literature (Nishii, 2013; Shore et al., 2018). These results underline the results of the most cited publications: the main focus of D&I literature is on diversity and its relation with performance; this analysis adds that most studies focus on gender diversity.
The keywords with the highest occurrences and the occurrence of all diversity dimensions, divided into observable and nonobservable types
As we identified that previous studies have mainly focused on diversity, we are also interested in what specific attributes are researched. In the keyword analysis, only gender diversity comes up as one of the most used keywords. Therefore, we conduct an extra keyword analysis to examine what diversity attributes occur in D&I literature. We identified all keywords in our sample mentioning a diversity dimension and bundled them based on the dimension they signified. We identified 28 different terms corresponding to 14 dimensions, including the terms surface- and deep-level diversity (see Table 3).
Next, we grouped the dimensions into observable and nonobservable types of diversity (Milliken & Martins, 1996). Observable individual differences are race/ethnic background, nationality, gender, and age, and have been studied at all levels of the organization. Nonobservable diversity includes differences in personality characteristics, values, skills and knowledge, functional background, occupational background, industry experience, and organizational membership, and have been mainly researched in top management and boards (Milliken & Martins, 1996). Surface-level diversity corresponds to observable types of diversity, while deep-level diversity corresponds to nonobservable diversity (e.g., Harrison et al., 1998).
The results show that 88 percent of the keywords refer to observable types of diversity, with gender diversity occurring the most (735 times), followed by culture (176 times), race (159 times), ethnicity (98 times), and age (50 times). In regard to nonobservable types of diversity, the term deep-level diversity has the highest occurrence (105 times). Other nonobservable types of diversity, such as religion or sexual orientation, have been researched but occur relatively little in the sample. These results show that most previous studies have solely focused on observable types of diversity and, more specifically, gender diversity. This aligns with our previous keyword analysis, where gender diversity is the only dimension in the top 10 keywords.
To identify prominent themes in our sample, we conducted a keyword co-occurrence analysis, including all keywords with a minimum occurrence of 50. Keyword co-occurrence analysis is a method used to analyze the frequency and patterns of words appearing together in a given text or dataset. Words that frequently appear together often share contextual relevance. This analysis helps identify clusters of keywords, and by analyzing the keywords within each cluster, we can derive meaningful insights about the underlying themes connecting these articles. Using this method, we identified three prominent clusters that remained intact even when including keywords with lower occurrences. Figure 2 shows the results of this analysis, with the three main clusters in red, blue, and green. Table 5 shows an overview of these three clusters with corresponding keywords. The first cluster, in red, shows words closely related to diversity management; the most powerful associated words are diversity, management, and work. Other related words are gender, diversity management, managing diversity, and human resource management. These keywords imply that these publications focus on managing diversity within an organization or workplace. The keyword inclusion is also part of this cluster, which implies that diversity management and inclusion are closely related to one another, which is underlined by previous research (Yadav & Lenka, 2020). The second cluster, in green, can be related to team diversity. The keywords with the highest appearance are performance, conflict, relation demography, and workgroup diversity. These keywords relate to one another as diversity in teams is measured based on demographic diversity and deep-level diversity and the effects thereof on performance, conflict, job satisfaction, and turnover. The last cluster (3), in blue, mainly focuses on board diversity and the effects thereof on firm performance and corporate social responsibility. Board diversity mainly focuses on gender diversity, also described as women or women directors. The focus is on corporate governance and the role of (female) directors.
Three main clusters of D&I literature and frequently used keywords
Table 6 presents the ten most popular publications, based on the highest ‘180 days usage count,’ which is the number of times a publication has been accessed or saved during this period (Janavi, 2020). The most popular publications are authored by Cucari et al. (2018), Liu et al. (2022) and Tang et al. (2021). This list consists of more recent publications than the ten most cited publications. It includes six publications focused on board or top management (gender) diversity, two on team diversity, one on inclusion, and one on performance. Moreover, five out of ten publications focus on the relationship between board diversity and corporate social responsibility (CSR). These results imply that current D&I academics are mainly focused on the role of diversity in boards and still mainly focus on gender diversity, in line with our previous results.
Publications with the highest usage count from the beginning of 2022 to mid-2022 and the total number of global citations (GC)
To further understand current research trends, we employed bibliographic coupling, a method that measures the similarity between academic articles based on shared references. When multiple articles reference the same set of key works, it suggests a thematic connection, indicating that those articles are likely exploring similar research topics (Donthu et al., 2021). By employing bibliographic coupling, we gain insights into the current dynamics and themes within our sample. The results, presented in Fig. 3, reveal the presence of 16 distinct clusters. The largest cluster, denoted in red and situated in the center-left, consisting of 669 publications, focused on team diversity and inclusion. Another cluster in green on the right, comprising 275 publications, emphasized board (gender) diversity. The blue cluster, positioned at the top with 214 publications, centered on diversity management. Additionally, the yellow cluster in the bottom-left corner, consisting of 40 items, explored an inclusive climate. Among these clusters, the purple cluster, with 14 items, was situated below the blue and green clusters and primarily examined the effects of diversity on firm performance. It is worth mentioning that the remaining ten clusters, each containing two to five items, were excluded from further analysis.
Based on the bibliographic coupling analysis, our findings highlight the prevalent themes in diversity and inclusion research. These themes include team diversity and inclusion, board diversity, diversity management, inclusive climate, and the effects of diversity. Notably, these themes align with the three themes we initially identified during the thematic development, which remain central to current research. However, recent studies have expanded the focus from solely diversity to encompass both diversity and inclusion, reflecting a shift in attention within the field.
The previous analyses identified the historical, geographical, thematic development, and current foci of D&I literature. Based on these results, we can also identify the blind spots in the literature. The results of the geographic development showed that almost ninety percent of publications root from developed countries. This implies that the role of D&I in developing countries remains under-researched, creating a blind spot for academics.
The thematic development shows several blind spots. First, the results showed three main themes in the literature, board diversity, team diversity, and diversity management. Interestingly, inclusion is not one of these central themes and—although closely related to diversity management—it is a very different concept. Second, this implies that the relationship between diversity and inclusion is unclear, creating another blind spot. Third, most previous studies have focused on gender diversity, leaving other dimensions under-researched, such as deep-level diversity and its underlying dimensions. Fourth, the results showed that most previous studies have solely focused on the role of diversity and its effect on (financial) performance. The effects of diversity on employees, social performance, and other stakeholders remain unknown. Finally, the literature does not include the determinants and antecedents for diversity and inclusion, so it remains to be seen what affects the level of D&I in organizations.
The analyses show no significant changes in focus themes over time: when we compare contemporary themes to the foundational themes, we identify only minor changes toward more research on inclusion. The foundational theme, team diversity, now also focuses on inclusion, and another theme has developed, focusing on inclusive climate. However, other aspects of inclusion still need to be explored, such as organizational inclusion or the relationship between diversity and inclusion. Next, we found that most studies still focus on the role of gender diversity, leaving other diversity dimensions as a blind spot in D&I literature.
This study aimed to understand the development of D&I literature and identify prominent themes and blind spots. We looked into the topic's historical, geographic, and thematic development and identified current foci. The historical development shows that research on D&I started in the 1960s, mainly due to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, focusing on ethnic diversity. The exponential growth in the decades that followed are led by related movements and expanded to other minorities, mainly women. The financial crisis of 2008 has led to more attention in board diversity. The number of publications has grown exponentially, and based on the results, it is not likely that D&I literature will reach a point of saturation in the upcoming years. The geographic development showed that research had been mainly conducted in developed countries, especially countries where quotas and other legislation are implemented.
The thematic development shows that the scope of D&I research in management literature is stable but relatively narrow. Since the 1960s, there have been different emphases between and within three research streams: diversity management, board diversity, and team diversity. Overall, we only observe small changes over time: research on inclusion has gained the interest of scholars only very recently, whereas studies on team diversity, the effect of board diversity on (financial) performance, and the effectiveness of diversity management practices have been consistently popular among scholars. Because of this solid thematic focus, there are some prominent blind spots. There is a tendency to focus on those types of diversity that can be easily observed or of which data are readily available. The keyword analysis showed how most research on diversity has focused on observable types of diversity, mostly on gender, race, and cultural diversity. Studies on nonobservable types of diversity, for which it is more challenging to collect data, are much rarer.
Based on our analyses and the blind spots identified, we can state that previous D&I literature has mainly focused on the (financial) effects of D&I, specifically gender diversity. The blind spots show that different elements of diversity are under-researched, such as the effects on social performance, its ethical implications, and the relationship between diversity and inclusion.
Our study provided a clear overview of the D&I research using bibliometric analysis. However, there are some limitations. First, we solely focused on research with divers* or inclusi* in the title, leaving out other research using synonyms of these words, such as affirmative action or identity, or did not put these words in its title but solely in the abstract or keywords. Also, publications that were irrelevant to answer our research questions can be included in our sample, as these could comply with our research criteria. Second, we exclusively used the WoS database, leaving potentially relevant publications that are not included in this database outside of our sample. Third, the data-collecting process could consist of errors from exporting the relevant data from WoS and human errors during the research process. Fourth, using a bibliometric analysis approach is a limitation as it uses quantitative data to make qualitative assumptions. Therefore, it is essential to be careful with conclusions and consider a certain degree of restraint.
Recommendations for Future Research
This study shows an increasing interest in diversity and inclusion in the management literature, but there exist several blind spots that leave room for future research. We can summarize them into four research recommendations.
The first recommendation follows from the blind spot of the different dimensions of diversity. A narrow interpretation of diversity limits our understanding of the relationship between diversity and organizational performance. Diversity is a multifaceted concept that can relate to various human characteristics. Although different definitions exist, the most widely regarded is that it refers to “differences between individuals on any attribute that may lead to the perception that another person is different from self” (Van Knippenberg et al., 2004, p. 1008). However, there is an academic convention to distinguish between observable and nonobservable types of diversity, with the former representing diversity attributes, such as gender and ethnicity, and the latter describing diversity on characteristics such as religion, sexual orientation, opinions, and political viewpoints (e.g., Harrison et al., 1998, 2002). Our bibliometric review shows that the management literature has neglected nonobservable types of diversity and only covers observable diversity to a certain extent, with most studies focusing on gender diversity. Hence, our first research recommendation would be to expand the interpretation of diversity in the management literature. Future research must broaden its perspective on diversity by including different nonobservable attributes, such as religion, ableism, sexual orientation, cognitive diversity, political preferences, or values. This could broaden our understanding of how organizational diversity could positively or negatively affect an organization.
Our second recommendation is a consequence of the blind spot on inclusion. Our analysis shows that the management literature’s concepts of diversity and inclusion are still often used interchangeably. Whereas studies on diversity have been prevalent in our sample throughout the years, inclusion has only entered the research field recently. However, conceptually they describe two vastly different concepts, in which diversity refers to people’s differing attributes (Van Knippenberg et al., 2004), and inclusion refers to the feeling of being valued and integrated into a group (Nishii, 2013). Whereas feeling valued is on an individual level, integration refers to the level at which groups with differing attributes have the same opportunities within an organization. This definition is also underlined by Shore et al. (2018), who recently presented an overview of workplace inclusion and five different definitions, ranging from workgroup inclusion to organizational inclusive practices. These definitions also imply that diversity is something that the management can control directly. In contrast, inclusion is the implicit objective of D&I practices. Since these concepts are often used interchangeably in management literature, we know little about the relationship between the two. Future research should focus on the relationship between diversity and inclusion. For example, what is the effect of the levels of diversity in the organization on the inclusion of minorities?
Third, our bibliometric analysis indicates that the management literature focuses on the effects of diversity on organizational performance but ignores other potentially essential effects. In particular, we still need to learn more about the social impact of organizational diversity. Although it is generally assumed that higher organizational diversity and inclusion challenges stereotypes (e.g., Cased & Bryant, 2016) and could improve the position of minorities in society (e.g., Stevens et al., 2008), there is limited empirical evidence for this. Moreover, as noted earlier, the literature largely ignores the importance of inclusion when analyzing the effects of diversity. Hence, we recommend that future researchers look beyond the effects of diversity on the organization and include how organizational diversity affects society.
Finally, we encourage scholars to conduct more studies on organizational diversity in developing or Non-Western countries. Our understanding of diversity is based on a culturally homogenous selection of studies almost exclusively based on American and European evidence. This finding is remarkable because diversity plays a significant role in corporations operating in many non-Western countries, such as India, China, and Brazil. Their different cultural setting might lead to some surprising observations.
Conflict of interest
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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While DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is widely used in academia and business, we chose to omit to the term “Equity” in this bibliometric study because it is often associated with financial aspects in management and business literature.