Identifying Opportunity

Kevin Lewis

June 30, 2022

The business case for diversity backfires: Detrimental effects of organizations' instrumental diversity rhetoric for underrepresented group members' sense of belonging
Oriane Georgeac & Aneeta Rattan
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Many organizations offer justifications for why diversity matters, that is, organizational diversity cases. We investigated their content, prevalence, and consequences for underrepresented groups. We identified the business case, an instrumental rhetoric claiming that diversity is valuable for organizational performance, and the fairness case, a noninstrumental rhetoric justifying diversity as the right thing to do. Using an algorithmic classification, Study 1 (N = 410) found that the business case is far more prevalent than the fairness case among the Fortune 500. Extending theories of social identity threat, we next predicted that the business case (vs. fairness case, or control) undermines underrepresented groups' anticipated sense of belonging to, and thus interest in joining organizations-an effect driven by social identity threat. Study 2 (N = 151) found that LGBTQ+ professionals randomly assigned to read an organization's business (vs. fairness) case anticipated lower belonging, and in turn, less attraction to said organization. Study 3 (N = 371) conceptually replicated this experiment among female (but not male) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) job seekers. Study 4 (N = 509) replicated these findings among STEM women, and documented the hypothesized process of social identity threat. Study 5 (N = 480) found that the business (vs. fairness and control) case similarly undermines African American students' belonging. Study 6 (N = 1,019) replicated Study 5 using a minimal manipulation, and tested these effects' generalizability to Whites. Together, these findings suggest that despite its seeming positivity, the most prevalent organizational diversity case functions as a cue of social identity threat that paradoxically undermines belonging across LGBTQ+ individuals, STEM women, and African Americans, thus hindering organizations' diversity goals.


Asians don't ask? Relational concerns, negotiation propensity, and starting salaries
Jackson Lu
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

In the U.S., Asians are commonly viewed as the "model minority" because of their economic prosperity. We challenge this rosy view by revealing that certain Asian groups may be susceptible to lower starting salaries. In Study 1, we analyzed 19 class years of MBAs who accepted full-time job offers in the U.S. At first glance, Asians appeared to have starting salaries similarly high as Whites'. However, a striking gap emerged once we distinguished between East Asians (e.g., ethnic Chinese), Southeast Asians (e.g., ethnic Vietnamese), and South Asians (e.g., ethnic Indians): Whereas South Asians started with the highest salaries of all ethnicities, East/Southeast Asians were near the bottom. This salary gap was mediated by East/Southeast Asians' propensity to not negotiate due to higher relational concerns. Importantly, negotiation predicted higher salary for each of the three groups (East/Southeast Asians, South Asians, and Whites). In further support of negotiation propensity as a mechanism, we identified industry as a boundary condition: The salary gap was not observed for consulting jobs, where MBA starting salaries are typically standard and non-negotiable. The non-consulting salary gap between East/Southeast and South Asians was estimated to be $4,002/year, a sizable difference that can compound over career life. Study 2 found similar results in a non-MBA sample while further accounting for individuals' bargaining power (e.g., the number of alternative offers, the highest alternative offer). In revealing the differences between East/Southeast and South Asians, this research moves beyond the predominant West-versus-East paradigm and reveals a more complex reality underneath Asian prosperity.

Does Investor Gender Matter for the Success of Female Entrepreneurs? Gender Homophily and the Stigma of Incompetence in Entrepreneurial Finance
Kaisa Snellman & Isabelle Solal
Organization Science, forthcoming

Female support of other women has been put forth as a remedy to the gender gap across many domains. Yet the potential costs associated with gender homophily are not well understood. We propose that homophily aggravates negative gender bias in evaluation. Focusing on the context of entrepreneurship, we theorize that future investors will discount a female entrepreneur's competence as the key factor in an early-stage investment decision, when the investment comes from a female investor. Consequently, female-backed female entrepreneurs may struggle to raise additional funds from new investors. In a field study of venture-backed startups, we find that firms with female founders who received funding from female rather than male VCs are two times less likely to raise additional financing. We find no equivalent investor gender effect for male-founded firms. In an experimental study, we find that pitches by female-backed female entrepreneurs receive lower evaluations compared with all other pitches, and that this is driven by perceptions of entrepreneur competence. Our findings suggest that well-intentioned calls for women to invest in women not only place an undue burden on female investors, but may also undermine the long-term success of female entrepreneurs.


Algorithmic discrimination causes less moral outrage than human discrimination
Yochanan Bigman et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Companies and governments are using algorithms to improve decision-making for hiring, medical treatments, and parole. The use of algorithms holds promise for overcoming human biases in decision-making, but they frequently make decisions that discriminate. Media coverage suggests that people are morally outraged by algorithmic discrimination, but here we examine whether people are less outraged by algorithmic discrimination than by human discrimination. Eight studies test this algorithmic outrage deficit hypothesis in the context of gender discrimination in hiring practices across diverse participant groups (online samples, a quasi-representative sample, and a sample of tech workers). We find that people are less morally outraged by algorithmic (vs. human) discrimination and are less likely to hold the organization responsible. The algorithmic outrage deficit is driven by the reduced attribution of prejudicial motivation to algorithms. Just as algorithms dampen outrage, they also dampen praise-companies enjoy less of a reputational boost when their algorithms (vs. employees) reduce gender inequality. Our studies also reveal a downstream consequence of algorithmic outrage deficit-people are less likely to find the company legally liable when the discrimination was caused by an algorithm (vs. a human). We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these results, including the potential weakening of collective action to address systemic discrimination.


Age and the labor market for Hispanics in the United States
Joanna Lahey & Roberto Mosquera
NBER Working Paper, June 2022

We explore the labor market for Hispanic high school graduates in the United States by age using information from the US Census, American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, and three laboratory experiments. We find, in general, that the differences in outcomes for Hispanic and non-Hispanic high school graduates do not change across the lifecycle. Moving to a laboratory setting, we provided participants with randomized resumes for a clerical position that are on average equivalent except for name and age (as indicated by date of high school graduation). In all three experiments, hypothetical applicants with Hispanic and non-Hispanic names were generally treated the same across the lifecycle by a student population, a population of human resources managers, and a more general population from mTurk. These results stand in contrast to earlier results that find strong differences by age in how resumes with Black and White names are treated.  

Progressive or pressuring? The signaling effects of egg freezing coverage and other work-life policies
Elinor Flynn & Lisa Leslie
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

In recent years, organizations have expanded the number and types of work-life policies they offer in an attempt to attract and retain talent. We challenge the assumption that work-life policies uniformly signal personal-life support and elicit favorable employee attitudes by investigating a relatively new work-life policy: egg freezing coverage. We theorize that, relative to other work-life policies, egg freezing coverage is more likely to send signals that evoke negative employee attitudes; although framed as intended to support employees' personal lives, employees interpret egg freezing as signaling that personal-life sacrifice and work prioritization are encouraged, which in turn decrease policy support and organizational attraction. We test these ideas in six studies, including an archival study, a qualitative survey study, a scale development study, two quantitative survey studies, and an experiment. We find egg freezing coverage evokes more negative attitudes than a range of other work-life policies (in vitro fertilization [IVF], on-site childcare, paid parental leave, flextime) as well as no policy at all. More negative reactions to egg freezing than to other policies are driven by perceptions that the policy sends a stronger signal that personal-life sacrifice is encouraged, as well as perceptions that it offers fewer benefits to employees and is more costly to organizations. In all, this work expands understanding of the signaling effects of work-life policies and demonstrates that reactions to a range of work-life policies are both more variable and driven by a larger number of underlying factors than prior theory can account for. 

The mitigating effect of desiring status on social backlash against ambitious women
Sonya Mishra & Laura Kray
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Power-seeking women incur social penalties known as backlash, yet research has identified two motive bases for leadership: power and status. Across five studies (N = 1683) using samples of working professionals, MBA students, undergraduates, and online participants, we investigate perceptions of individuals with varying motives for power and status. We uncover the motive for status is more congruent with feminine stereotypes compared to the power motive (Study 1), and that women who desire status are less likely to incur backlash compared to women who desire power (Study 2). We find that women who desire power appear to have greater perceived leadership potential compared to women who desire only status. However, women who desire both power and status benefit, as they are perceived as highly leaderlike but incur less backlash than women who only desire power (Study 3). We detect support for the novel "Status Compensation Effect" in experimental (Studies 1-3) and naturalistic settings (Studies 4-5), such that the negative social consequences typically incurred by power-seeking women (i.e., backlash) are reduced for women who simultaneously desire status. The current research highlights how women's desires for power and status serve competing functions in impacting their likelihood of incurring backlash. 

Women are Credited Less in Science than are Men
Matthew Ross et al.
Nature, forthcoming

There is a well-documented gap in the observed number of scientific works produced by women and men in science, with clear consequences for the retention and promotion of women in science. The gap might be a result of productivity differences, or it might be due to women's contributions not being acknowledged. This paper finds that at least part of this gap is due to the latter: women in research teams are significantly less likely to be credited with authorship than are men. The findings are consistent across three very different sources of data. Analysis of the first source - large scale administrative data on research teams, team scientific output, and attribution of credit - show that women are significantly less likely to be named on any given article or patent produced by their team relative to their peers. The gender gap in attribution is found across almost all scientific fields and career stages. The second source - an extensive survey of authors - similarly shows that women's scientific contributions are systematically less likely to be recognized. The third source - qualitative responses - suggests that the reason is that their work is often not known, not appreciated, or ignored. At least some of the observed gender gap in scientific output may not be due to differences in scientific contribution, but to differences in attribution.

Do book consumers discriminate against Black, female, or young authors?
Dana Weinberg & Adam Kapelner
PLoS ONE, June 2022

The publishing industry shows marked evidence of both gender and racial discrimination. A rational explanation for this difference in treatment of both female and Black authors might relate to the taste-based preferences of book consumers, who might be less willing to pay for books by such authors. We ran a randomized experiment to test for the presence of discriminatory preferences by consumers based on authors' race, gender and/or age. We collected ratings of 25,201 book surveys across 9,072 subjects on Amazon's Mechanical Turk, making this study the largest experimental study of the book market to date. Subjects were presented with mocked-up book covers and descriptions from each of 14 fiction and non-fiction genres, with one of three possible titles per book randomly assigned. Using author names and photographs, we signaled authors' race, gender, and age and randomly assigned these combinations to each book presented to our subjects. We then asked subjects to rate their interest in purchasing the book, their evaluation of the author's credentials, and the amount they were willing to pay for the book. The experimental design of this study strived to eliminate the potential for proxy-based discrimination by providing book descriptions that detailed the authors' relevant professional experience. The large sample allowed for exploration of various types of taste-based discrimination observed in the literature, including discrimination against particular groups, homophily, and pro-social behavior. Overall, book consumers showed a willingness to pay approximately $0.50 or 3.5% more on average for books by Black authors and little, if any, practically meaningful discrimination based on age or gender. In other words, our study finds no and even contrary evidence of taste-based preferences by consumers that would rationalize the historic discriminatory treatment of Black or of female authors by publishers nor of discrimination based on an author's age. 

Race, Gender, and Investor Evaluations of Firms and CEOs
Jing Liu, Radhika Lunawat & Devin Shanthikumar
University of California Working Paper, May 2022

Using an experimental design, we examine whether CEO race and CEO gender affect investors' willingness to invest in a company, their forecasts of future performance, and their evaluations of CEO performance, when given narrative and financial information about a firm. We deliberately avoid triggering race and gender stereotypes, in order to strengthen external validity. We collect data from a diverse group of participants and examine whether race- and gender-effects differ based on participant characteristics. We find that participants are significantly less likely to invest in the Black-CEO led company than the white-CEO led company, consistent with race-based implicit biases regarding leadership. Contrary to expectations, we find that participants are more likely to invest in the female-CEO led company than the male-led company. Both of these results are primarily driven by a low willingness to invest in firms led by Black male CEOs. This low willingness to invest in Black male led firms occurs in data collected from a diverse public University and from private historically white institutions but is absent in the data from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Additional analyses exploiting participant race and gender suggest that both results are driven in part by in-group biases: White participants are more likely to prefer white CEOs, while female participants are more likely to prefer female CEOs.

Evaluation of Women in Economics: Evidence of Gender Bias Following Behavioral Role Violations
Whitney Buser, Cassondra Batz-Barbarich & Jill Kearns Hayter
Sex Roles, June 2022, Pages 695-710

Drawing on social role theory (Eagly & Wood, 2016), this paper seeks to understand the nature and causes of gender bias in student evaluations of teaching (SETs) by looking at student evaluations of faculty at two time periods: on the second day of class and on the day after the first exam grade is returned. We seek to understand whether bias exists at the onset of the semester and whether backlash after grading exacerbates any differences. We hypothesized that students would perceive grade feedback more harshly from a female faculty member than a male faculty member due to role congruency expectations of communality in women. The results indicate limited evidence for gender bias at the onset of the semester (the second day of class) and strong evidence for bias against female faculty after the first exam grade is received. This work advances our understanding of when bias develops within the semester and why it may occur. The findings of this study should be of interest to administrators and human resource personnel by ultimately aiding their ability to better manage gender bias in performance evaluations.

Does Information Affect Homophily?
Yana Gallen & Melanie Wasserman
University of Chicago Working Paper, June 2022

It is common for mentorship programs to use race, gender, and nationality to match mentors and mentees. Despite the popularity of these programs, there is little evidence on whether mentees value mentors with shared traits. Using novel administrative data from an online college mentoring platform connecting students and alumni, we document that female students indeed disproportionately reach out to female mentors. We investigate whether female students make costly trade-offs in order to access a female mentor. By eliciting students' preferences over mentor attributes, we find that female students are willing to trade off occupational match in order to access a female mentor. This willingness to pay for female mentors declines to zero when information on mentor quality is provided. The evidence suggests that female students use mentor gender to alleviate information problems, but do not derive direct utility from it. We discuss the implications of these results for the design of initiatives that match on shared traits. 

Inferring the Performance Diversity Trade-Off in University Admissions: Evidence from Cambridge
Debopam Bhattacharya
University of Cambridge Working Paper, May 2022

Does increasing diversity in university-intake require sacrificing academic performance, and if so, by how much? We develop an empirical framework to explore this trade-off ex-post, using admissions-data matched with post-admission academic outcomes. We propose a simple, theoretical model of admissions for a university that values both future academic performance and diversity, and faces capacity-constraints. We show that the implicit weight on equity vis-a-vis expected future performance in the university's objective-function is captured by the ratio of inter-group difference in the admission-rate and that in the post-entry academic performance of marginal entrants. The problem of identifying marginal entrants can be mitigated using performance-data for students admitted from waitlists, leading to bounds for the relative weights. These bounds (a) hold irrespective of whether researchers observe all applicant characteristics known to admission officers and (b) require no information about rejected candidates, who are typically not followed up. We apply this idea to admissions data from Cambridge, using scores on blindly-marked post-admission exams as the performance metric. In mathematical subjects, where female enrolment is relatively low, we find robust evidence that improving gender-balance requires significant performance sacrifice, and conclude an implicit weight of at least 10-20% on gender-equity in the university's objective function. There is no evidence of such trade-off in equally competitive non-mathematical subjects and, contrary to popular perception, for applicants' school-type. Our methods and results illustrate a formal way to quantify ex-post efficiency costs of diversity in a context where societal objective encompasses both equity and efficiency.

How Do You Say Your Name? Difficult-To-Pronounce Names and Labor Market Outcomes
Qi Ge & Stephen Wu
Hamilton College Working Paper, February 2022

This paper tests for the existence of labor market discrimination based on a previously unstudied characteristic: name fluency. Using data on over 1,500 economics job market candidates from roughly 100 PhD programs during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 job market cycles, we find that having a name that takes longer to pronounce is associated with 1) a significantly lower likelihood of being placed into an academic job or obtaining a tenure track position; and 2) an initial placement at an institution with lower research productivity, as measured by the research rankings in the Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) database. We obtain similar results using two alternative ways of measuring pronunciation difficulty, a computer generated algorithm based on commonality of letter and phoneme combinations and a subjective measure based on individual ratings, and they hold after the inclusion of many control variables including fixed effects for PhD institution and home country.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.