Women and visible minorities who manage to break through the glass ceiling are often expected and enthusiastic to help others make it to the top, but it seems championing diversity can have other career costs.
Research from the University of Colorado finds that women and non-white executives who push for diverse hires may suffer for it in their own performance reviews. However, the opposite is true for white men.
“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. “People are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them, unless they’re a white man.”
Hekman said he believes the negative stereotyping is a result of perceived self-interest.
Having visible diversity in executive positions is often seen as a sign of a progressive and supportive organization, but this is not necessarily the case if executives are held back from helping others climb the ladder behind them.
Companies might be able to curb this deterrent to diversity by swapping the “diversity” label with a more neutral term like “demographic-unselfishness,” Hekman said. It could also help to have a white male head up corporate diversity efforts.