TIME career

Why It’s Hard for Women to Promote Other Women

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Promoting diversity in the workplace could be detrimental to your career, according to a new study that will be presented at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting in August.

The study wants to figure out why white men currently hold 85% of leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies.

Researchers at the University of Colorado found that women and non-whites who advocate hiring their counterparts are penalized in their performance reviews. Those who promote women and non-whites fall victim to negative stereotypes outlined in the study: Women are perceived as “less warm” while non-white are seen as “less competent.”

The researchers surveyed 362 executives ranging from the banking sector to consumer products and food. Those in the upper 15% for dedication to diversity averaged a performance rating of 3.76 on a scale from one to five, with five as the highest score. However, a decline in promoting diversity led to an increased performance rating.

Diversity promotion had the opposite effect for white men, who receive higher ratings when promoting diversity in the workplace. Despite this, minorities and women were given higher performance ratings when they advocated hiring a white man.

“People are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them, unless they’re a white man,” David Hekman, an author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal.

One reason the “glass ceiling”(as the University of Colorado researchers phrase it) exists for women and non-whites in the corporate world is because any promotion of diversity hinders their own performance ratings. The resulting social construction proves to be one that is difficult to overcome.

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