“Women and Minorities Are Penalized for Promoting Diversity”

“It is well known that people tend to favor and promote those who are similar to them — and that this in-group bias is problematic because it reinforces stereotypes and inequality. However, while it is a common tendency, not everyone is allowed to advocate for their own group. Sometimes when women and minorities promote their own group, it garners criticism from others…
Much to our surprise, we found that engaging in diversity-valuing behaviors did not benefit any of the executives in terms of how their bosses rated their competence or performance. (We collected these ratings from their 360-degree feedback surveys.) Even more striking, we found that women and nonwhite executives who were reported as frequently engaging in these behaviors were rated much worse by their bosses, in terms of competence and performance ratings, than their female and nonwhite counterparts who did not actively promote balance…
Basically, all managers were judged harshly if they hired someone who looked like them, unless they were a white male… The challenge of creating equality should not be placed on the shoulders of individuals who are at greater risk of being crushed by the weight of this goal.”

[this is actually a pretty short article, for some reason the page makes it look long]

These findings didn’t surprise me at all. In my experience, institutions are happy to use my face and add my statistics to their brand and promotional materials — but are often culturally and interpersonally hostile when I make even casual references to my identity.

There is something about ownership and gating here. I feel like most institutions these days want a few people of color and groups of women dotted around (or white people want a few exotic friends), but are implicitly afraid of them “taking over”. We are expected to exist happily in isolation, ornaments at the whim of authorities who don’t know us more than the color of our skin or our gender identity, sexuality, ability status, etc… But we don’t necessarily have the right to look around and think about how we can improve it, apply our sensibilities to a piece of it, gain a leadership role and the independence to guide work according to our own perspectives. Importantly, we are not supposed to be put in a position to determine who else is able to gain membership. Gating and ownership is meant to stay in the hands of the originals.

I think we need to engage all of these corporate leaders in thought experiments where they imagine their institutions run by, say, dark-skinned mixed-race genderqueer individuals — and asking the current leaders to work through all the feelings and reactions they have to that, openly articulate their fears and assumptions, and then really look at their institution’s “diversity” goals and think about what they mean.

More realistically: diversity missions need to be articulated more actionably, directly address findings such as this, and be communicated clearly to all employees and new hires so that there is a broad cultural understanding of the institution’s goals and their importance.

Related: “Why White People Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race”; “How Diversity Destroyed Affirmative Action”; “The Struggles of Being a Black Millennial in a Conservative White Workplace”; “You deplete me: The cognitive costs of colorblindness on ethnic minorities”; “Stop Blaming Women for Holding Themselves Back at Work