Ultimate Halo Effect: White Men Praised for Dedication to Diversity, Women and Non-Whites Penalised in Appraisals

Dedication to diversity can be a liability in the workplace, but only for non-whites and women, according to a new study detailed in the Wall Street Journal.

According to a new research at the University of Colorado, women and non-whites executives who push for people like themselves to be hired and promoted suffer when it comes to their own performance reviews. A woman who shepherds women up the ranks, for example, is perceived as less warm, while a non-white who promotes diversity is perceived as less competent. Both end up being rated less highly by their bosses, according to the paper.

“Women can lean in and try to bridge the confidence gap all they want, but they’re going to be penalized for advocating for other women, just like non-whites are,” said David Hekman, an author of the study and an assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.

Hekman and two colleagues examined a pool of 362 executives, including CEOs, vice president and directors from industries like banking, consumer products and food. They found that executives who ranked in the top 15% on a scale of dedication to diversity received an average performance rating of 3.76. Moving down on the pro-diversity behavior scale correlated to an increase in performance review ratings. A woman who ranked at the average of the diversity scale yielded a performance rating of 3.98, while scoring in the bottom 15% on the diversity scale pushed the performance rating to 4.15, a 10% increase from those who ranked at the top of the diversity scale, according to Hekman.

White men, on the other hand, actually got a bump in their performance review scores from valuing diversity, he added.

The researchers also conducted an experiment where actors, playing company leaders, gave a speech advocating for their firms to hire someone who either looked like them or did not look like them. When female actors read from a pro-diversity script, study participants rated them as colder, and when non-white actors read from a pro-diversity script, they were rated as less competent.

Hekman said he believes the negative stereotyping is a result of perceived self-interest.

“People are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them, unless they’re a white man,” he said.

We at InclusIQ think it’s Time to insist a white man heads up your corporate diversity efforts; and that he points out this double standard.