Are You Being Punished for Promoting Diversity?


Earlier this month, at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting, researchers presented their findings on the impact of the glass ceiling on minorities and woman.  It seems that even though women and minorities have become the dominant force in workplace, they are actually being punished for promoting diversity.

As reported in the Academy of Management article about the University of Colorado and the University of Colorado, Boulder study,

“Ethnic minority or female leaders who engage in diversity-valuing behavior are penalized with worse performance ratings than their equally diversity-valuing white or male counterparts.”

In fact, high-level executives who value and promote diversity are often seen as promoting diversity for the sake of diversity, also known as selfish favoritism.

Researchers also found that receiving lower evaluations wasn’t the only problem women and minorities faced. In the second part of their experiment, researchers asked 395 students to watch simulated human resource candidate hiring pitches. When women or minority candidates were suggested, the students had very negative reactions.

In a Huffington Post interview, David Hekman, the author of the study, recalled the students’ reactions to the pitches, stating, “They were like, ‘This is terrible, you’re hurting all of us, it makes us all look like we’re incompetent and weak, like we can’t do this ourselves.’”

Hekman and the other researchers agree that the only way to change this mindset is to re-frame the issue of diversity. By encouraging the use of the term “demographically unselfish,” companies and their corporate executives will feel more comfortable about hiring or promoting all people.

The study also recommends hiring white males to run diversity programs at companies to help avoid the stereotype of promoting diversity for the sake of diversity. Currently, most Chief Diversity Officers are women and people of color, which unfortunately is still feeding into the notion of selfish favoritism.

A NewsOne article, covering the presentation of the study at the AOM annual meeting, quotes Hekman as saying, “…women or ethnic minorities are penalized every day for doing what everyone says they ought to be doing – helping other members of their groups fulfill their management potential. It is a revealing sign that the supposed death of longstanding biases has been greatly exaggerated.

What are your thoughts this new study? Do you think women and minorities are being penalized for promoting diversity? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

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