Executives promote diversity at their own peril, university study finds
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Executives promote diversity at their own peril, university study finds

Executives promote diversity at their own peril, university study finds

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) have found that the promotion of diversity in the workplace can hinder executives in their performance evaluations, while female and non-white executives are often penalised in their quest for diversification.

According to the paper published in the Academy of Management Journal, female and minority executives who back other female and minority candidates through the company hiring process receive worse ratings from bosses than those who follow the status quo.

“For all the talk about how important diversity is within organisations, white and male executives aren’t rewarded, career-wise, for engaging in diversity-valuing behaviour,” said lead authors David Hekman, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, and Stefanie Johnson, assistant professor of the same faculty, in an article for the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

“And non-white and female executives actually get punished for it,” the scientists add.

For the study, 350 executives responded to a survey asking them to measure diversity-valuing behaviours like their personal respect towards cultural, religious, racial or gender-based differences; how much they value working with a diverse group of people; and whether they feel comfortable taking lead over people from different social backgrounds.

In a separate survey, bosses rated the same 350 executives on diversity-valuing behaviours, competence and performance. Researchers found that positive attitude towards diversity was only rated negatively in the evaluations of female and non-white executives.

Researchers then asked 307 working professionals to review a hiring decision made by a fictional manager. Participants were given a description of how the decision was reached, along with a photo of the manager (revealing race, gender, etc.) and a survey asking them to rate their overall performance.

Researchers found that participants rated female and minority managers as less effective if they chose for a fellow female or minority candidate over a white male.

“Our set of studies suggests that it’s risky for low-status group members to help others like them,” said Hekman and Johnson in HBR. “And this can lead to women and minorities choosing not to advocate for other women and minorities once they reach positions of power, as they don’t want to be perceived as incompetent or poor performers.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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