Emotion is an aspect of diversity practice that is relatively overlooked in the literature. This paper expands Nussbaum's theorization of emotion as a constituent part of moral reasoning and her proposal that compassion can promote gender equality. By discussing empirical examples from a study with diversity practitioners working in the United Kingdom, I suggest that emotion can be used as a means to a variety of ends and that the concept of ‘utility’ helps identify them. By being aware of how emotion is mobilized, it becomes possible to evaluate when emotion seeks to achieve social justice and where it is coopted to seek social justice ‘lite’, that is, instances where social justice is instrumental. Building on this, the notion of, compassion, articulated as the expansion of the ‘I’ — the positioning of oneself and the other as ends‐in‐themselves — offers potential to re‐appropriate some of the neoliberal individualism that has hitherto been identified as problematic within the ‘managing diversity’ approach.