Workplace diversity has been a hot topic in recent years. But while numerous studies have examined and championed its potential benefits for organizational performance, they’ve largely ignored some of the other changes it has made on the corporate landscape. Carlson School Professors Lisa Leslie and Theresa Glomb address some of those overlooked areas in their recent research into diversity’s effect on corporate charitable giving. 

One key finding emerged from their research: Increased gender diversity has a direct and powerful impact on giving. “We found that women tend to give more than men,” says Leslie. “But we also found that as the percentage of women in a business unit increased, the men in the unit became more likely to donate to charitable campaigns.”

Glomb and Leslie point to behavioral mirroring as a factor. “Women are generally considered to be more communal, more helpful, and more likely to engage in pro-social behavior,” Leslie notes. “When there are a lot of women in a work unit, employees assume that more people are giving. Because we know that coworker behavior affects other coworker’s behavior, it helps explain the increase in giving.

“As organizations become more diverse in terms of gender, there is a positive impact on pro-social behavior—particularly in giving to workplace charity drives,” she adds. “That suggests there’s a positive synergy between an organization becoming more diverse and developing a better reputation for corporate social responsibility.”

In a similar vein, Glomb and Leslie also discovered that minority groups are less likely to give on average. However, their behavior changes with the diversity of their unit, such that as work unit ethnic diversity increases so do charitable contributions. What’s more, the positive impact of having an ethnically diverse work unit is strong enough that increased ethnic diversity is also associated with a boost in employee charitable giving across the entire organization.

The upshot: Increased corporate diversity appears to be more powerful and far-reaching than previously thought. Given the relatively narrow focus of past studies on the topic, it’s also a field that’s ripe for additional research that can provide new insights into workplace dynamics and employee motivations.

“Who Gives? Multilevel Effects of Gender and Ethnicity on Workplace Charitable Giving” Leslie, L. M., Snyder, M., & Glomb, T. M., Journal of Applied Psychology, (2013)