Study Shows Black Women’s Leadership Comparable To White Males

February 2, 2012  |  

If you’re a black woman in leadership, chances are you won’t receive too much criticism when you get tough on your employees. According to a new study, black women do not face the same backlash as white women and black men when displaying dominate behavior.

The News & Record reports that the study, called “Can an Agnetic Black Woman Get Ahead?” was conducted by Duke Professor Ashleigh Shelby Rosette and two Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management professors. An online poll was used to measure the reactions of 84 non-blacks in fictional scenarios where business executives were shown reprimanding or encouraging employees.

“There’s a substantial (body of research showing a) penalty for women when (they) display dominant or assertive or angry, commanding or demanding (behavior),” Rosette said. “All of those resources presumed that the women under consideration were white, but hadn’t necessarily looked at what would happen if the women were of a different race,” she added.

Because black women weren’t taken into consideration in previous studies, black women’s negative evaluations were unaccounted for and the results were not applicable. Rosette’s work observed that although white women leaders were given a higher rating for encouraging behavior, the study observed that black women leaders were given a higher rating than white women for dominate behavior.

“Our findings show that black women are evaluated comparably to white men,” Rosette said. She then asked the next very important question: “If that’s the case, why are there not more black women represented in top leadership positions?”

The study has yet to be published and is currently pending publication in the journal Psychological Science.

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