Madeleine Albright came under fire earlier this year for telling women to support Hillary Clinton because "there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other," said the former secretary of state.
Turns out there’s also a place in hell for women who do help each other.
Apparently, when women and minorities promote and hire other women and minorities, they are viewed less favorably by their supervisors and peers, according to some depressing new research published in the March edition of the Academy of Management Journal.
People assume that women and minorities go out of their way to hire people like them -- but who might not be the best candidates for the job. The only kind of person who can hire a woman or person of color and not face negative consequences at work is a white man, according to the study.
“Basically everyone [surveyed for the study] got penalized for hiring somebody who looked like themselves -- except white guys,” said David Hekman, an associate professor of management at the University of Colorado-Boulder's Leeds School of Business who coauthored the paper.
That’s because white males are unconsciously and consciously still considered model leaders and workers -- they get more leeway, he explained to The Huffington Post. And no one minds much if you hire white guys.
That's partly the reason that a stunning 85 percent of top executives and board members on the S&P 500 are white men, Hekman and co-athor Stefanie Johnson, also a Leeds professor, point out in a piece they wrote for the Harvard Business Review.
This is not a case of the most qualified candidates rising to the top, they said. It's a case of unconscious bias in favor of white men. "You don’t assume that a white guy hires a white guy because they're a white guy," Johnson said. That's because they're de facto, unconsciously considered the best candidates. And now we know, based on this research, that you'll be judged in the best light as a leader if you hire white men.
Hekman and Johnson surveyed 350 executives, asking whether they respected cultural, religious, gender and racial differences. Those executives were then evaluated by their peers and bosses, who judged women and minority executives as less competent when they hired candidates who looked like them.
The researchers also conducted a lab study to gauge what people thought about minorities hiring other minorities. The results were the same: Minorities and women were judged unfavorably for hiring diverse candidates.
You can also look to the real world for examples. Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer was called a racist for explaining to CNN last year that she is committed to hiring diverse candidates for her team, the researchers point out.
The study comes at a time where more and more companies and executives are committed to hiring for diversity. Hekman and Johnson emphasized that the results shouldn’t discourage these efforts. Indeed, the research highlights the urgency with which organizations need to figure out how to hire and promote all kinds of people.
The key to doing this, Johnson said, is to figure out ways to remove unconscious biases from the hiring and promotion process. Organizations that do this will end up with more women and minorities.
You want to make the pathways to hiring and promotion very clear and objective, removing the possibility that these decisions are made based on any reason besides competency. So you don’t promote people for being a “cultural fit,” an ambiguous term that often winds up meaning “guy who looks just like me and also likes beer and golfing.” Instead, you promote the person who increased profits or had the best code. “This way every player has an equal chance,” Johnson said.