Women and Minorities Are Punished for Helping Each Other at Work, Study Finds

White men, however, did not appear to suffer from emphasizing diversity. 

Posted: 08/04/2014 04:27 PM EDT

Could valuing diversity as a corporate leader hurt one's career? A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado and University of Texas have found that, for some professionals, it is a possibility.

Two experiments involving more than 700 high-level executives and students showed that women and minorities who champion diversity from corporate leadership positions are more likely to receive lower performance evaluations from their colleagues and bosses. However, white men who promote diversity do not seem to be penalized.

Researchers suggested that minorities and women pushing for another to excel for the sake of diversity fits into the stereotype that they are more likely to participate in “selfish favoritism than promote deserving candidates.”

David Heckman, the study’s lead author and a professor at the University of Colorado’s Business School, told the Huffington Post that a re-framing of the issue might be the best solution. He suggested using the term “demographically unselfish,” as opposed to a “loaded term” like diversity, as a better way for leaders to hire and promote people.

"Almost all of diversity offices are run by non-whites and women, but I think that further ghettoizes diversity itself and makes it so it’s not taken seriously. Nobody can attack a white man for being selfish if he's promoting diversity.”

Heckman also pointed to the recent canning of Jill Abramson — the former New York Times executive editor who pointedly promoted a number of women to leadership positions — and the contrasting success of Marissa Mayer — the CEO of Yahoo, who has publicly dissociated herself from feminism.

"Marissa Mayer is worth $300 million bucks, and Jill Abramson is fired," he added.

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(Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Corbis)

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