To read this content please select one of the options below:

Diversity perspectives and minority nonprofit board member inclusion

Ruth Sessler Bernstein (School of Business, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, USA)
Diana Bilimoria (Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 4 November 2013




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.


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.


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.


The paper quantitatively investigated how three organizational diversity paradigms are associated with the individual inclusion experiences of minority nonprofit board members.



The authors thank Paul Salipante who helped in the framing of this study and provided useful comments throughout the writing process. The authors thank Robin Ely, Nicole Tysvaer, Judith Weisinger, and the two anonymous reviewers for their excellent suggestions to improve the manuscript. They also thank BoardSource for providing Vital Voices survey data and James Gaskin for aiding in the statistical analyses.


Sessler Bernstein, R. and Bilimoria, D. (2013), "Diversity perspectives and minority nonprofit board member inclusion", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 32 No. 7, pp. 636-653.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles