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Burcu Subasi: 'diversity is a double edged sword'

Date:04 February 2020
Subasi's research found that colleagues are less likely to share information with people who are dissimilar to them in ethnicity or gender.
Subasi's research found that colleagues are less likely to share information with people who are dissimilar to them in ethnicity or gender.

The right thing to do, and good for growth. A new generation of researchers in the faculty are studying the topic of diversity in business. They are taking on questions like: what is the impact of increasing gender balance on a company’s bottom line? And how can diverse teams best work together? These are matters of vital interest in economics and finance, and results increasingly indicate that the best talent and the best ideas come from having a broadly diverse and balanced workplace.

This is the third in a series of Q&As with a selection of researchers who work on the topic at the Faculty of Economics and Business.

Burcu Subasi is a post-doctoral researcher who works on diversity, teamwork, communication, decision-making, and cultural barriers in business.

Q. Can you introduce yourself?

A. I am from Turkey. I did a psychology bachelor in Turkey and came to the Netherlands with the Erasmus Exchange Program for the first time. Later on, I got a scholarship and did a research master in social and organisational psychology in the University of Groningen, and then a Ph.D. in Erasmus University. I have been living in the Netherlands for 10 years. I am married and have a son.

Q. What drew you to the topic of diversity?

A. I have always studied and worked in international settings in various countries. Besides my formal education in Turkey and the Netherlands, I did summer schools in the UK and Germany. I attended conferences in the USA. I met people from all over the world. I was fascinated with the fact that people from different countries have many different ways of doing things. They have different perspectives. I enjoyed learning about these differences, and eventually started to wonder if we can benefit from these differences in the work place. 

Q. Why is this issue important, and what societal implications does the area have?

A. Nowadays so many people immigrate to different countries for various reasons, financial, educational, political or marriage. Developed countries try to attract highly skilled, knowledge immigrants to their country so that they can keep advancing in science and technology. This means that you need to work with people from various countries. To be able to do that, you need to know how to handle diversity. Research shows that diversity is a double edged sword: Compared to homogeneous teams, diverse teams are more creative and innovative; they make better decisions; have better performance but only if diversity can be managed well. Otherwise, diverse teams might have more conflicts, more performance deficits and more problems compared to homogeneous teams. So it can go better or worse, depending on how you handle it.

Q. Can you give an example of an illuminating or exciting discovery you came across in your research?

A. If you have ethnic or gender dissimilarity, people are less likely to share information with you at the work place because people ascribe lower status to individuals who are very dissimilar to themselves. This affects your creativity because in order to be creative, you need to exchange information, and learn about various knowledge, different perspectives and viewpoints. However, if people learn that you have a specific status which means that you have a specific expertise, training, experience or education in a topic relevant to the work, the negative effects of ethnic or gender dissimilarity disappears, and your colleagues start to exchange more information with you. This makes you more creative. This is the result of one of my studies.

Q. What's next for your research?

A. At the moment, I work on a project about how to increase decision making performance of individuals when there is a crisis. My current research is not in the field of diversity. However, I keep giving training to students, and seminars to employees about managing diversity.