Archive for October 16th, 2008

Race and Sex Employment Segregation

Posted on October 16, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Kaufman, Robert L. Assessing Alternative Perspectives on Race and Sex Employment Segregation. American Sociological Review, 2002, Vol. 67 (August: 547-572).

Robert Kaufman sets out to outline what he believes to be the most influential components to employment segregation. By formulating numerous metrics and predictors, he outlined his justification theory for segregation, namely: skill deficits, worker preferences, economic and organizational structure, and stereotyping/queuing.

In order to conduct fair and marketable data, Kaufman divided segregation’s dominant perspectives. These were then evaluated according to two different models, the supply-side approach or the demand-side approach. The supply-side approach concentrates on skill-deficits between blacks and whites. “A human capital/skills deficit approach sees segregation as resulting from group differences in human capital (548)”. Skill deficits call into question, the qualification differences between races, primarily focusing on blacks and whites.

It is critical to examine the varying components that go into evaluating racial disparities. Components of human capital include education, skills acquired in the field (or relevant fields), and experience. These differences will impact the development of human capital, and if denied, will also impact the skill deficit of all races. Fortunately, recent research suggests that the gap between racial differences is slowly decreasing due to the increase in education, training, and experience.

Racial segregation, in addition to its social influences, is impacted by corporate culture and employment structure. Studies have demonstrated that as more skills are required for positions, a disparity develops between racial and gender demographics. “Studies of racial segregation find that higher general skills and training requirements increase the segregation of positions (549).” Consequentially, less racial minorities and women will be seen in upper-management and executive positions because these types of jobs require extensive experience and knowledge within their fields and industries. As long as the job training and experience is concentrated around white men, higher-level positions will and employees will enjoy the benefits of racial segregation.

However, many would argue that the gender disparities are due to women’s preference between balancing work and life. “Regarding sex segregation, a common argument is that women prefer positions that can accommodate their family responsibilities (549).” In non-managerial positions, it is assumed that women would prefer flexible work schedules in order to accommodate their family interests and responsibilities. These positions and gender differences are conditioned by assumed familial responsibilities.

Although this method may suggest inherent sex segregation, when using the sex-role socialization approach, it presents the external influences differently. The sex-role socialization approach suggests “that men and women have preferences for different types of skills and working conditions, primarily resulting from childhood or adult sex socialization (549).” This would indicate that there are inherent gender differences between positions due to societal influences from childhood. This suggests that men are predisposed to select positions that require physical or manual labor and ‘status-superior’ occupations, arguing that stereotyping occurs in the hiring process.

The second model is the demand-side approach. This method accounts for economic and organizational structures as constraints, advocating that stakeholders, including customers, can exercise discriminatory behavior. This argues that competition should eliminate discrimination, but this does not account for those preferences mentioned earlier, for white men. Fortunately, “such ‘tastes’ are more intense and salient only in firms protected from competition or with slack resources (549),” implying that as competition increases; there is an inverse reaction to discrimination. However, as inherent barriers to competition are in place, such as private institutions or organizations, gender and racial discrimination is more likely to occur because preference-selection dominates the selection process.

An additional approach to sex and gender discrimination is the race-sex stereotyping and queuing approach. This method suggests that the level of productivity is directly correlated to race and gender. This method pays more attention to their “membership in a race or sex group and less attention paid to their personal qualification (550).” For example, certain positions are valued as either ‘appropriate’ or ‘not appropriate.’ Early in this article, they mention that black women, according to this theory, are destined to be ‘pressers in laundries’ and black men as ‘garbage collectors or other sanitary services.’ This implies an inherent ranking system involving race and gender, resulting in fewer minorities in upper-management.

In conclusion, race-sex stereotyping is the largest factor in formulating desirable employment. As long as high skill levels are assigned to those who receive its benefits, there will be gender and racial segregation in management. Again, there is a greater demand for highly skilled employees, which come from additional experience and responsibilities that come with high-performing positions.

This article continues to highlight the disparate differences between the availability and placement of minorities compared to white men. Jobs that require less brain-work are generally assigned to blacks and women. Skills and experience remain key factors in marketability and market power. Unfortunately, stereotyping does occur in the workplace, denying minorities the opportunity and access to upper management. Without further developing their leadership skills, racial minorities will not be able to enter the highly competitive management market.

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Corporate Black Tokenism

Posted on October 16, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Jackson, Pamela Braboy; Peggy A. Thoits; Howard F. Taylor. Composition of the Workplace and Psychological Well-Being: The Effects of Tokenism on America’s Black Elite. Social Forces, Vol. 74, No. 2 (Dec., 1995), pgs. 543-557.

In evaluating work stress and psychological symptoms of token black employees, this article uses Rosabeth Kanter’s theory of proportional representation to determine the differences between gender and race and work related difficulties. Kanter’s theory “argues that individuals who occupy token positions in their work settings experience three sources of stress: performance pressures, boundary heightening, and role entrapment (543).” Leadership manifests itself through juggling the delicate balance between the personal and professional lives, but for token minorities, additional stress factors must be added in order to accurately reflect leadership access and capabilities in the workplace.

As workgroup dynamics research unfolds, it is evident that group demographics greatly influence the interactions of its members, and that its success is rooted in the perspective and accomplishments of its participants. “Research suggests that minority-group size affects attitudes, achievement, and the frequency and quantity of interpersonal contact between majority and minority group members (543).” As Kanter’s theory supposes, additional stress factors influence the interactions between majority and minority group members. With fewer minorities, they inherently exhibit token-like behaviors whereas groups with larger numbers of minority-group members, interpersonal dynamics enhance workplace performance and decrease stress factors.

Racial differences are experienced across all aspects of the workplace. As the authors suggest, minorities entering a white-male dominated environment will undergo racial categorization and stereotypes that must either be overcome or fulfilled. In fact, “Hughes…described the potential perpetuation of status conflict based on stereotyped expectations for behavior, highlighting the particular dilemmas faced by women and blacks who enter male and white occupations (544).” For this reason, women and minorities, including black women as well, are conditioned to operate according to their environments. These interactions are manifested through three different forms of workgroups in white-male dominated environments.

Workgroups vary among composition, either being fully mono-racial, slightly integrated, or as a fully diverse group. According to Kanter, these groups were labeled ‘uniform,’ ‘skewed,’ and ‘balanced.’ In uniform groups, the members are homogenous – meaning that they are assigned to the same gender and racial categories. Skewed groups have a small number of women and or racial minorities and are the majority remains in control, whereas balanced groups have an even split of diverse group members for both race and gender. However, in the skewed groups, thee minorities are seen as the token representatives of their race or gender, and are expected to experience higher levels of work stress and lower levels of performance.

In these groups, tokens experience three sources of stress; performance pressure, boundary heightening, and role entrapment. “Because their ‘differnetness’ is highly visible, tokens feel that they are always under scrutiny (545).” In order to compensate for expected failure, women and racial minorities must perform at higher levels in order to compete at a ‘level playing field.’ Because performance measures and evaluations are primary tools used to assess potential management, tokens must work diligently to prove their worth and strength, particularly since their careers are at stake. One key factor in this belief is that tokens believe that they are being evaluated more heavily by their master status than their performance, which results in either two effects; to overachieve in order to be recognized, or to avoid the spotlight by completing tasks as assigned as discretely as possible.

The second stress factor is boundary heightening. In order to demonstrate their affability, majority group members will either exaggerate their similarities or point out their differences in order to connect with group members. “Tokens are repeatedly reminded of their difference through jokes, interruptions, exclusion from informal activities, and various ‘loyalty tests’ (545).” This leaves tokens with limited options, including; either to isolate themselves from their counterparts, or to demonstrate their defining professional attributes in the pursuit of inclusion.

The third stress factor is role entrapment. This factor involves the application of stereotypes and behaviors onto tokens from majority members. Tokens are expected to behave under applied stereotypes and are evaluated accordingly, and consequentially, assume the inferior status prescribed by the majority. “Those who resist stereotyped roles are ‘trapped in a more militant stance than they might otherwise take’ (545).” These tokens deny token assimilation and stereotyping, resulting in a perceived aggressive stance against it. In either situation, they both hinder the perception and evaluation of token leadership. In order to succeed, tokens must undergo behavioral readjustments in the workplace.

These stress factors result in higher levels of distress for tokens in skewed and homogenous groups. “Black leaders who are outnumbered by whites in their work situations exhibit higher levels of distress than those in balanced situations in which blacks outnumber whites (550).” This social and statistical relationship holds true to gender tokens as well. In groups other than balanced, tokens exhibit these three stress factors, resulting in psychological and social hindrances, and thus, hindering their professional development.

In conclusion, as more blacks enter a workgroup, less stress factors are applied, which can also be applied to the gender model as well. Tokenism is an applicable model in all group interactions, contributing to increased levels of distress and decreased levels of performance and job evaluations.

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