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Women Penalized for Promoting Women – Another Victory for the White Man

Women Penalized for Promoting Women – Another Victory for the White Man
Post by: Lily Brown

Is promoting equality a liability for the workplace?  According to one University of Colorado study, unless you’re a white man, the answer to that question is “yes.”

David Hekman, an author of the study and assistant professor of management at University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, has presented findings which examined 362 varying high-level executives in corporate America’s workplace.  The study’s findings are interesting and noteworthy on two levels: first, the study showed that women and non-whites that promote diversity score lower on their performance evaluations than their non-diversity promoting counterparts; and, second, that the inverse relationship is true if the diversity-promoter happens to be a white man.

Specifically, the study examined the top 15% of executives that were considered to be the strongest in the diversity promotion arena, finding that the grouping correlated to an average rating of 3.76.  Those in the murky middle with a mediocre scoring on diversity promotion correlated to a performance rating of 3.98, while those in the bottom 15% of diversity promotion correlated to an average performance rating of 4.15.

As noted above, the study went on to point out that the inverse relationship is true if the person promoting diversity happened to be a white man.  In that regard, the study found that white men who scored high on diversity promotion actually experienced a bumped increase in their average performance rating.

So the white man wins again, and women and non-whites should be wary and consider themselves forewarned that their performance ratings may be negatively affected if they push for women and non-whites to be hired and promoted.

What does this say about our societal workplace?  What does this say about our societal values?

Hekman thinks issue is one of perceived self-interest.  According to Hekman, “people are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them” – unless of course you’re a white man, forever the outlier on the equality front.  Hekman has gone on to suggest that it could be helpful to change the name “diversity” to something more neutral like “demographic-unselfishness,” or to have a white male head up corporate diversity efforts.

Is that really the answer?  Can that really be the answer?

While there surely must be more palatable neutral alternatives to the name “diversity” than “demographic-unselfishness,” I have a strong guttural reaction to the idea that a potential solution is to have white men head up corporate diversity efforts.  So we end the discriminatory side-effects resulting from minority corporate diversity-promotion by discriminating and giving white men preferential treatment when it comes to corporate diversity promotion efforts?  Surely that cannot be the answer, nor should it be.

Yes, I’ll concede, it definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing if more white men stepped up their efforts on the diversity promotion front.  However, the bottom line is that a woman or a non-white should NOT have to fear for the health and well-being of their career and livelihood simply because of their desire to promote other minorities.

Moreover, solutions such as Hekman’s suggestions are equivalent to treating the symptoms of a disease without treating the disease.  In order to figure out how to correct the imbalances and inequalities that still exist in America’s societal workplace we must venture all the way to the bottom root cause of discrimination and seek to correct it from there.

Quick fixes are not permanent fixes.  What we need is a total paradigm shift of the corporate mind-frame and societal workplace in America.  We must more fully and universally recognize the equal rights of all people and all employees and reorient our core values to truly and meaningfully promote the same.  Until we do, everything else will just be putting a Band-Aid on a gash wound while the underlying injury continues to fester.

Whatever the ultimate solution may be, as a female employment attorney on the employee-side of the fence, I can definitely attest to the fact that the battle for equality for all is far from over, and now is definitely not the time to be resting on our laurels when it comes to the promotion of equal rights and equal opportunities.

Read the article here: Study by University of Colorado

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