Ethnic Diversity i Danish Boards: The Impact of Everyday Discrimination in the Recruitment Process

Rabia Iqbal & Nada El-Khatib

Student thesis: Master thesis


This master’s thesis examines how discrimination affects potential candidates from ethnic minorities in the recruitment process in Danish corporate’s boards. We work from the perception of that ethnicity is a problematic concept as the perception of the concept is reliant on visible body markers. Therefore, this study focus on how a selection of respondent’s construct diversity and discrimination regarding directorships. In addition, we will identify the discriminatory practices that ethnic minorities from non-Western countries in Denmark are exposed to in the recruitment process. The theoretical framework that were used in this study includes diversity, recruitment, post-colonialism and discrimination. We use post-colonialism as our theoretical starting point in the thesis in term of understanding of how colonization still sets its mark in the management literature. Our qualitative in-depth interviews revealed that everyday discrimination has a negative impact on the recruitment process in regards to recruiting candidates from ethnic minorities for corporate’s board positions. Unconscious bias including the similarity-attraction effect, prejudices and stereotypical conceptions about ethnic minorities in Denmark affects whether the board chooses to go with the ‘safe’ choice and thus recruits in its network or whether the board chooses to recruit a candidate from its out-group, who does not share similarities with the rest of the board members. It is the embedded processes of racialization as a result of colonialism that places groups at more or less favorable contexts and interactions. The prejudices can therefore be an essential reason behind the lack of diversity in Danish corporate’s boards. Thus, it can be said that the meritocracy is a myth. Whenever biases and stereotypes affects humans, as well as our choices and decisions, we no longer live in meritocracy in which competencies objectively help determine who gets a pass to directorships. Whoever becomes a member of the boards is also largely determined by norms, gendered expectations as well as organizational and social structures. For this reason, we believe that there should be a change in the structural processes, for instance, through which professional recruitment agencies anonymize the recruitment process, which in turn can be beneficial in reducing everyday discrimination. Furthermore, we believe that organizations should voluntarily implement ‘soft’ quotas which can help them effectively block biases without the organization compromising on the candidate’s competencies. This can be done, for instance, with tie-break-quotas, in which the organization chooses a board member from the most underrepresented group, if ever put in a situation where there are two or more equally qualified candidates.

EducationsMSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages160
SupervisorsSara Louise Muhr