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“Like will to like” or “opposites attract”? Management board diversity affects employer attractiveness

Philipp Schäpers (Institute of Psychology, Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Leon Windscheid (Department of Psychology, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Münster, Germany)
Jens Mazei (TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany)
Meinald T. Thielsch (Department of Psychology, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Münster, Germany)
Guido Hertel (Department of Psychology, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Münster, Germany)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 15 May 2021

Issue publication date: 21 June 2021




How diversity in management boards affects employer attractiveness has yet to be fully clarified. This paper aims to contrast the two main theoretical rationales – similarity attraction and diversity attraction – and examines whether potential employees are more attracted to an organization with a homogenous board (in terms of gender and ethnicity) or to an organization with a diverse board.


Participants (N = 629) were simultaneously presented with two pictures of management boards, whereby the gender and ethnic composition of the boards were manipulated. Moreover, to examine whether social desirability influences the ratings of an organization’s attractiveness, survey anonymity was varied using an indirect questioning technique.


The findings supported the diversity attraction rationale: organizations with gender-balanced, multicultural boards were seen as more attractive than organizations with monolithic boards. However, this effect seemed to be influenced – at least partially – by social desirability.

Research limitations/implications

Additional research is needed to examine the extents to which people care about the degree of similarity between themselves and a management board.

Practical implications

The findings illustrate board composition as an employer branding strategy. Specifically, the results indicate that an organization can benefit from a diverse management board when this information is communicated to applicants.

Social implications

People’s attitudes toward organizations with diverse boards seem – in part – to be rooted in their motivation to comply with social norms.


Theoretical accounts (similarity attraction theory vs diversity attraction) lead to somewhat contradicting predictions, and the available empirical evidence was rather indirect and correlational. This study provides a controlled empirical investigation contrasting the two contradicting predictions.



Philipp Schäpers and Leon Windscheid contributed equally to this work and share the first authorship.

The authors thank Celeste Brennecka for proofreading the manuscript.


Schäpers, P., Windscheid, L., Mazei, J., Thielsch, M.T. and Hertel, G. (2021), "“Like will to like” or “opposites attract”? Management board diversity affects employer attractiveness", Gender in Management, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 569-590.



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