Homosocial Reproduction

Posted on October 18, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Elliott, James R. and Ryan A. Smith. Race, Gender, and Workplace Power. American Sociological Review, Vol. 69, No. 3. (Jun., 2004) pgs. 365-386.

This article addresses the power differences in the workplace due to ‘homosocial reproduction,’ (select candidates that most closely reflect themselves) and its affects on women and racial minorities. It goes into depths regarding barriers to promotion, in which women and racial minorities are only able to obtain ‘modest’ degrees of power due to their authority level within organizations, and because of that, are unable to successfully navigate through the intricate channels of networks.

Much of the analyses were based on statistical data regarding income disparities and workplace promotion between Caucasians and minorities. Much of the research confirms what previous research has demonstrated, stating that, ‘past inequalities’ via social dynamics has weaved itself into the fabric of corporate America, and is thus, increasing gender inequality throughout the advancement of corporate ladders (367). Much of the wage and power disparities are rooted in racial and gender differences.

As Kaufman highlighted in his article, Assessing Alternative Perspectives on Race and Sex Employment Segregation, 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. Kaufman states that race-sex segregation, in which assessments are made according to their race or sex, are placed in positions accordingly, confirming this article’s emphasis on homosocial reproduction. As white men dominate executive positions, women and racial minorities will not achieve the same levels of promotion from networking due to homosocial reproduction.

These barriers deny access to leadership opportunities. “Networks help workers gain skills, acquire legitimacy, and climb promotional ladders (368).” The exclusion of women and racial minorities prevent the sharing of informal instruction and mentorship throughout the organization. Other readings, such as Blass et. al, confirm that by enhancing the understanding of organizational politics, networks are pipelines to success.

Network membership does not necessitate direct success and access to competitive projects. Within networks, women and racial minorities continue to experience discrimination. “Workers, not just employers, use race and gender to rank network members, and this ranking influences the type and amount of assistance available to members of different groups (368).” This research suggests that women and racial minorities obtain less power within organizations due to their limited access to training, mentorship, and contacts. This makes them more competitive for positions as they climb the corporate ladder, resulting in a battle against qualifications and experience.

Their second hypothesis evaluates the inverse relationship between power and position, in relation to white men. As mentioned above, “women and minorities often rely more on education and experience, relative to white men, to ‘break into’ higher levels of power, often having to ‘out-credential’ white-male counterparts… (368-369).” This supports their third and fourth hypotheses, suggesting that homosocial reproduction is more prevalent as women and minorities advance in the workplace. As power, influence, and importance increase up the corporate ladder, executives feel more comfortable in working with someone more like themselves, easing the potential tension and misunderstandings that may cause damage to company performance due to gender or racial differences.

Another key component regarding access to leadership development and networking capabilities consists of the gender and racial composition of those superiors to whom the subordinates will report. “White men, by virtue of being dominant, nearly always rise to power under ‘similar others,’ whereas women and minorities generally take two tracks: they advance under white men, or they advance under similar others (370).” As previously mentioned, networking is more important to women and minorities throughout executive positions because they are competing against qualifications, as opposed to white men, who benefit from networking and homosocial reproduction as a direct result of superior compositions. As one advances under similar others, education and qualifications become less important, but when advancing under non-similar others, networking is essential in avoiding barriers to leadership positions.

Results from research prove that white men benefit from homosocial reproduction and network advancement. White men are twice as likely to benefit from networks and access to leadership projects when directly reporting similar-others than dissimilar superiors (377). This phenomenon (homosocial reproduction) is evident throughout all levels of the organization, whereas women and minorities rely more heavily on networks as they advance in the workplace. In addition, research has provided an enlightening statistic regarding black women and networking.

As networking benefits members of different gender and racial groups, black women seem to be the most resourceful. “The odds of Black women advancing from workers to supervisors increase 39% when they receive network assistance, and the odds of Black women advancing from supervisors to managers increase 500% when they receive network assistance (379).” Black women rely more heavily on similar superiors for advancement than dissimilar superiors. As Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has proven, diversifying the workplace has positively influenced society’s racial and gender perspectives on women and minorities. As this statistic demonstrates, efficient networking and network assistance may help prevent gender and racial discrimination, as it proves that stereotypes should not be used in formal or informal evaluation methods. Concurrently, women and minorities use homosocial reproduction at a larger rate than white men, proving that this phenomenon is present in different gender and racial groups.

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