Workplace Diversity Is Only OK When White Men Bring It Up, Study Says

Workplace Diversity Is Only OK When White Men Bring It Up, Study Says

For women and people of color hoping to help their workplace better reflect the world around them, it turns out "diversity" is a four-letter word. 

Although diversity in the workplace benefits the economy and improves the workplace, it turns out it's only a good thing when white men speak about it. According to a new study published in the Academy of Management, women and nonwhite workers who promoted a diverse staff received much lower ratings from their bosses than white men who promoted diversity — who received good ratings regardless of who they hired. 

The study surveyed 350 executives and defined diversity as a workplace that reflected the population of its region. 

"For all the talk about how important diversity is within organizations, white and male executives aren't rewarded, career-wise, for engaging in diversity-valuing behavior, and nonwhite and female executives actually get punished for it," two of the researchers, Stefanie K. Johnson and David R. Hekman, wrote in the Harvard Business Review

In a second part of the experiment, the researchers presented 307 working adults with pictures of fictitious hiring managers and people they hired. When nonwhite or female managers hired nonwhite or female employees, participants said those managers were "less effective." However, white male managers were considered effective regardless of the race or gender of the people they hired. 

Why is this, exactly? Johnson and Hekman explain that it's because their "competence is assumed based on their membership in the high status group" and they're able to "deviate from the status quo" — hire people outside their own race and gender — without reproach.

The researchers also pointed out the terrible implications here: Women and people of color are inadvertently discouraged from hiring people like them for fear of low job performance ratings. And the workforce, in turn, does not diversify. 

This research adds to the growing evidence that workplace diversity is difficult to achieve on both sides of the equation. People of color face rejection based on their names alone, which can often be an indicator of class status.

I guess, when it comes to diversity, white men are like: