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Researchers are now discovering how people of color and women are often penalized at work for promoting others like themselves.

In a time where many companies claim to value racial and gender diversity, researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Colorado, Boulder have found that women and people of color – often minorities in corporate settings – are more inclined than white males to seek the advancement of other minorities. Unfortunately, their bosses often hold efforts to help against them.

In a paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, David R. Hekman of the University of Colorado and Maw Der Foo and Wei Yang of the University of Colorado, Boulder report:

“Nonwhite and women leaders who engage in diversity-increasing behaviors in the highest organizational ranks are systematically penalized with lower performance ratings for doing so,” the study continues. “Our findings suggest that nonwhite and women leaders may increase their own chances of advancing up the corporate ladder by actually engaging in a very low level of diversity-valuing behavior… By downplaying their race and gender, these leaders may be viewed…as worthy of being promoted into the highest organizational echelons.”

The research sheds a new light on why women and people of color are underrepresented in the executive ranks of corporate America. It also examined how diversity-valuing women and people of color are rated by employers.  Women it says, “will tend to be viewed as less warm and receive lower performance ratings than their equally diversity-valuing male leader counterparts.” People of color, however, will, “tend to be stereotyped as incompetent.”

Hekman summarized the findings pretty well. He wrote, “More people believe in ghosts than believe in racism, and people in the upper ranks of management will not openly utter a bad word against diversity. Yet, executives who are 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.”


People of Color, Women Often Punished For Promoting Others Like Them  was originally published on