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Women and minorities have been making great strides as it relates to gaining coveted positions within the workforce, but that still doesn’t mean they’re taking it all the way to the top.

Though diversity recruitment efforts have increased over the years, a deficiency regarding the number of women and minorities in executive positions still exists. Despite outnumbering white males two to one, many minorities and women still find themselves managed only by white males throughout their career. Exactly how does this happen?

According to a Forbes.com article and the Academy of Management, many scholars, practitioners and students are seeking “to solve the puzzle of why the glass ceiling persists despite the presence of minorities and women in organizational leadership positions.” It has been suggested that so few minorities climb the ranks in Corporate America because they feel discouraged from valuing diversity and promoting those who look like them.

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The first study conducted by the Academy included 362 executives working in the United States, 13.8% of whom were non-white and 30.7% of whom were female. The executives were rated by bosses and peers for performance, diversity-valuing behavior, warmth and competence. In a second experiment, actors were told to act as leaders advocating for one of four candidates applying for a position. All the job candidates were equally qualified and differed only on demographics: one was white male, one white female, one Latino male and the last Asian female.

The Academy of Management hypothesized and found in both field and laboratory samples that white male leaders who value diversity are rewarded by their supervisors with better performance evaluations, whereas minority and female leaders who value diversity are penalized with worse performance ratings.

In an effort to combat such disparities, the following two solutions were offered:

• Judging people on how much they hire and promote people demographically dissimilar from themselves, and not on how much they promote diversity, which may in turn help diversify leadership since white men are the vast majority of people in power; and / or

• Hire white men to head up their diversity efforts since they are penalized less in performance ratings for hiring and promoting diversity.

The Forbes article suggests that, as ironic as it may appear, white male leaders seem to be needed to get companies to care about and implement more efforts for diversity; which may or may not be the means to an end of pushing more women and minorities to these executive positions.

Do you agree ?

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.


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