Academic Publishings

Cultural Differences On Group Tasks

Posted on November 17, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Cox, Taylor H. Sharon A. Lobel, Poppy L. McLeod. Effects of Ethnic Group Cultural Differences on Cooperative and Competitive Behavior on a Group Task. The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 34, No. 4, 1991. Pgs. 827-847.

As much as group-dynamic literature is focused on traditional white Anglo-American men in the workplace, “this study examined the differences or similarities Anglo-Americans, Asian, Hispanic, and Black Americans in behaviors on group tasks. The authors hypothesized that the racial minorities would exhibit more collective and cooperative behaviors than the competitive-individualistic Anglo-Americans.

As alluded to earlier, very little research had been conducted on cultural heterogeneity, resulting in an Anglo-American biased data pool. This data does not accurately reflect the changing population demographics, in which “people of different ethnic backgrounds possess different attitudes, values, and norms that reflect their cultural heritages (828).” Previous research demonstrates that there are two types of cross-cultural dimensions, individualistic and collectivist. Collectivists focus on the betterment of the group and its communal results whereas the individualistic approach sacrifices the group for results. European and European-descent cultures are individualist and Asian, Africans, and Latinos are collectivistic, which led to the first hypothesis.

The first hypothesis, a general expectation, proposes that ethnic differences in approaching group work will alter the group behavior and tasks. Ethnic differences stem from the bicultural differences of being African, Hispanic, or Asian. “Members of predominant minority groups of the United States tend to be bicultural and to have knowledge of Anglo norms as well as the norms of their own ethnic group (830),” in which they accommodate these norms depending on the situation. These norms are learned through their association with the competitive majority-culture and their own cooperative minority-culture. This notion led to testing the idea that as African, Hispanic, and Asian groups gather, they will increase their collective behaviors. In order to test this hypothesis, they used a mixed-motive game from the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a cooperative-competition game.

This game demonstrated that “cooperatively oriented subjects responded in kind to a competitive strategy but readily reverted to cooperative behavior in response to a cooperative strategy even though the payoff matrix for the game provided higher incentives for responding competitively (831),” leading to the second hypothesis; that collective groups are oriented more towards collective work where they expect cooperative behavior and tasks. This also led to hypothesis 2b, stating that diverse groups will increase their cooperative behaviors.

The study tested 136 college graduate and undergraduate students from various majors in the Midwest. It included; 75 Anglo-Americans, 25 Asians, 17 Blacks, and 19 Latinos with a total of 95 men and 41 women, all of which 115 were born in the States. The subjects were randomly assigned to groups, which included the following; “9 had two men and two women, and the other 8 were all men. There were also 8 all-male groups among the Anglos, but only 4 of the remaining 8 groups were balanced on gender (832).” These numbers led to a brief gender analysis on possible effects on group dynamics. Each group is given two choices with ‘numerical payoffs’ for certain combination of choices. Figures 1 and 2 display these results.

Figure 1 displays the payoff matrix, demonstrating that when groups participate in cooperative behaviors, they enjoy a ‘moderate mutual gain,’ whereas a non-cooperative person within a cooperative group runs the risk of a major ‘loss’ versus the competitor. It is also demonstrates that a loss is inevitable when they do not participate in cooperative behaviors. “Two conditions of the game were employed: a no-feedback condition and a cooperative-feedback condition (834).” These conditions were manipulated to invoke participant responses to external conditions. These participants recorded their individual strategies and reasons and then met as a group afterwards.

The results proved both hypotheses to be correct. Under the cooperative-feedback condition, most of the participants assumed that cooperative behaviors will continue throughout the process. “In contrast, the majority (73%) of the reasons given in the no-feedback phase simply related to winning or losing and did not refer to an expectation of cooperation from the other party (836).” Mean scores on individualism-collectivism scale rank racial minorities with the highest score and Anglos with the lowest score, 56.49. Pairwise comparisons revealed that the original hypothesis would be correct. Using the Pairwise analysis demonstrated that African, Latino, and Asian ethnic groups participate in collective-cooperative behaviors at a higher rate than Anglos. Between the different racial groups, they did not differ significantly from one another.

It also demonstrated that Anglos were more competitive in no-feedback and during the competitive-feedback; Anglos gave the most competitive reasons for their answers, showing that Anglos rank significantly higher in competitive responses. Hypothesis 2 was confirmed through this, stating that Anglos again, gave fewer cooperative responses.

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How Experience & Networking Affects Demographic Minorities

Posted on November 13, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Westphal, James D. and Laurie P. Milton. How Experience and Network Ties Affect the Influence of Demographic Minorities on Corporate Boards. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pgs. 366-398.

This article examines the influence of demographic majority and minority executive directors in diverse decision making groups and their ability to assimilate according to previous board member experience. Minority status is affected by functional background, industry background, education, race, and gender, from a large corporate sample of Fortune/Forbes Top 500 Companies.

Previous corporate boards had been viewed as being homogenous, and recent stakeholders had pushed for diversifying their boards in the hopes of improving decision making, in which they recruited others from outside their industries. However, although these new board members originated from different industries, the boards were still homogenous in their education, functional background, and also gender and race. “Research has shown that increases in the ratio of outside to inside directors do not necessarily improve decision making or performance (367).” Although they came from different industries, they were demographically similar, and thus their strategic approaches and decision making were also similar.

Throughout this article, the authors adopted the social psychologist definition of minority as referring to “an individual who has salient attitude, belief, or social feature, such as a demographic characteristic, that is possessed by less than 50% of the group (367).” The advantage of this definition is that it reflects the variability of minority status subject to context and situations. Although various academics are skeptical of demographic minorities successfully influencing group decision making, this study aims to demonstrate successful measures through which this may be achieved.

Academics are skeptical because “demographic differences lower social cohesion between group members and that these social barriers reduce the likelihood that minority viewpoints will be incorporated into group decisions (367).” This is consistent with Blass et al’s article on Politics Understanding and Networking Ability as a Function of Mentoring. In this article, the networking advantage is a direct result from learning the internal game of politics, developing a set of organizational competencies, including expectations, informal rules, and boundaries, that allow demographic minorities to assimilate into group categories.

Demographic minorities are categorized as out-group members, and begin to identify and categorize accordingly, and as out-group members, they will encounter both verbal and nonverbal resistance to group contributions, impacting their contribution quality. “Thus, out-group biases can limit the potential of minority board members to contribute to board decision making by challenging the conventional wisdom of the majority (369).” If out-group members do not provide quality contributions, and are viewed according to their salient categories, this greatly affects their performance evaluations as viewed by demographic majority group members. In fact, research shows the “tendency for demographically different individuals to receive less favorable evaluations and to become socially marginalized from group decision making…(369).” However, there are barriers that can be overcome, particularly through network experience and time spent in majority/minority status.

Demographic minorities could make more influential insights and decision making by highlighting common objectives that all group members share. “An effective minority influence style would involve faming an argument with reference to strategic or personal goals that directors have in common (370).” This method of identification presents itself as the more salient demographic identity, uniting both in and out-group members. When majority directors are supervised by a demographic minority, it allows majority directors to establish an in-group membership toward demographic minorities, and thus, enhancing demographic minority performance. This minority role experience is critical in developing effective decision making groups.

Minority role experience helps reduce salient out-group characteristics. “Prior experience in a minority role should help directors minimize the out-group bias facing directors in a minority position, enhancing their ability to influence board decision making… (371).” This experience allows them to identify with out-group members, and thus, improving group decisions. These concepts led to hypothesis 1a stating the positive relationship between previous relationship in a minority role and a director’s influence over the board. Hypothesis 1b states; there is a negative relationship between more experience as a majority director with decision making board members. Hypothesis 2 states a positive relationship with other majority board members in previous minority role positions and effective decision making groups.

This experience enhanced the perceived social similarity, in which networks create a positive stereotype. These network associations enhance minority confidence and provide more fair job evaluations. Perceived similarities also enhance trust, thus decreasing the tendency to marginalize minorities. Strong networks also make minorities less vulnerable to out-group categorization, which results in a reduce perceived threat to demographic majorities. Hypothesis 3a states that as common board membership increases the more positive the relationship is between minority status and majority director influence over decision making. Hypothesis 3b states that as 3rd party ties between minority and majority increase, the more positive relationship between minority and majority and the influence over decision making.

Results of tests show a strong positive correlation between minority status and prior experience in a minority role for 5 of 6 demographic characteristics. As majority directors experience as a minority increases, so does the ability to oversee effective decision making groups. Hypothesis 2 is strongly correlated with positive effects on minority status influence in decision making groups. “The results in Table 2 also generally support hypothesis 3a…the effect of minority status on director influence becomes more positive as the number of common board memberships with other, majority directors increase (388).” There is also a high correlation for 3b, involving the director’s ability to positively influence, as it is related to third party network ties.

Overall, their hypothesis were tested accurately and proved to be correct. However, they did discuss the future direction of studies, emphasizing how different demographic groups could work more effectively and avoid categorization and in-group allegiance. Again, this study greatly supports the previous referenced article on political networks and its influence on diverse decision making groups.

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Leadership and Chinese CEO’s

Posted on November 11, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Tsui, Anne S., Hui Wang, Katherine Xin, Lihua Zhang, P.P. Fu. Variation of Leadership Styles Among Chinese CEO’s. Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 33, No. 1, pgs. 5-20, 2004.

The goal of this study was to identify key Chinese CEO leadership styles, variations between firms and styles, and the level of effectiveness of styles and its impact on their organizations. Research methods included; newspapers, company websites, and interviews. Using systematic statistical analyses, the study found six behavioral dimensions and four types of styles, in which the styles reflect a subtle blend of eastern values and western ideals.

After China’s economic reform 25 years ago, China has grown to be one of the world’s largest economies, and its corporate executive management has been rapidly adapting in order to handle the new economic developments. However, traditional forms of Chinese management are confronted with Western management philosophies. There are three forces affecting Chinese leadership behaviors; “traditional (Confucian) values, Communist ideologies, economic reform, and infiltration of foreign, especially Western, management philosophies and practices… (5).” As is expected, the government still plays a significant role in corporate strategies, maintaining their communist and Confucian beliefs.

There are four major Confucian virtues; the class system, obedience, the doctrine of the mean, and renqing (kindness/reciprocity). “These four virtues have historically formed the foundation of ethics and morality in the mind of the Chinese people (6).” The class system defines the social order, which is ruled by obedience to superiors. This superior-subordinate relationship maintains the cardinal relationship of social order. This Confucian tradition contributes to the authoritative leadership style of Chinese business leaders, whereas the leaders demonstrate benevolence to subordinates

These traditional Confucian values are also intertwined with communist ideologies of communal dedication and service. “These ideologies, including whole-hearted service to the people, loyalty to the Party, hard work and self-sacrifice are prescribed in the Party Constitution for members to follow (6).” This ideology is strongly correlated to corporate dedication that Chinese employees have with their companies and to their leaders (CEO’s).

Prior to China’s economic reform, the government ruled all strategies, supplies, and financial allocations. “Leaders, under the contemporary definition, did not exist, because all organizations had to do was to make sure that the allocated quotas were fulfilled, and that the people assigned to them were cared for (6).” The notion of leaders was fulfilled entirely by Confucian values, aligning allegiance to CEO’s with allegiance to the government. However, in 1978, managers of state-owned companies were now responsible for corporate operations and profit-making. Prior to 1978, privately-owned enterprises (POE’s) were deemed illegal, as they did not comply with government regulations and oversight. After the reform, POE’s were free from government regulations and were able to adopt Western managerial philosophies, allowing them to be less-risk adverse as their SOE competitors. POE’s are more likely to engage in more-risky behaviors in the pursuit of profit because they are not constrained by governmental regulations, which strongly influences Chinese leadership styles and behaviors.

They found six behavioral dimension and four styles of leadership. These styles are; Articulating Vision, Monitoring Operations, Being Creative and Risk-Taking, Relating and Communicating, Showing Benevolence, and Being Authoritative. CEO’s exhibiting Articulating Vision refers to CEOs’ ability to clearly communicate vision to his or her followers. Monitoring Operations sets the strategic decisions of the organization. Showing Benevolence refers to CEO’s executing generosity to their employees and families. Being Authoritative exudes the leader-follower relationship.

Task-behaviors, as are traditionally assigned to U.S. male leaders, are distinct in Articulating Vision, Monitoring Operations, and Being Creative and Risk-Taking. These leadership styles establish benevolence, operation oversight, and dictatorial behaviors. “The other three dimensions relate to the people management aspect of the executive position: Relating and Communicating, Showing Benevolence, and Being Authoritative (9).” Being benevolent and dedicated to social relationships is imbedded in Chinese culture, in which Confucian virtues teaches of superiors treating subordinates with kindness and righteousness.

The four leadership styles of Chinese executives are; Advanced Leadership style, Authoritative Leadership style, Progressive Leadership style, and Invisible Leadership. Advanced Leadership style is ready to work in a field full of risk and embodies the spirit of creativity which influences the corporate fabric. This leader understands the importance of his or her human capital and does his or her best to respect and understand its employees. Authoritative Leadership styled is viewed as a difficult management style to work with. Employees are obedient and abide by high moral standards in which the CEO enforces.

Progressive Leadership style establishes a strict performance system to improve efficiency and product quality. This leader unites groups to work as a whole, to create value and to please the stockholders and local communities. This leader is dynamic and is employee-oriented. Invisible Leadership style is self-explanatory. This leader prefers to pass decisions to subordinates and avoid the spotlight.

CEO’s in SOE’s are inhibited by governmental regulations, thus inhibiting leader development. In POE’s, leaders have the opportunity to develop and grow within an organization. The authors “expect that the CEO’s of these firms will have tighter control over their organizations and will introduce modern management skills (15).” Research found that Advanced Leaders are more likely to be found in POE’s than SOE’s because they have a reason to motivate and cultivate effective leaders in order to increase profits and experience internal growth.

In conclusion, the Chinese external environment has a significant impact on developing executive leaders. All six behavioral dimensions work well depending on the industry and type of company. Although China is experiencing high levels of Western influence, Chinese people are still willing to follow the Authoritative Leadership style as it is imbedded in their culture and values. Although Western philosophies would disagree, China must consider that; “Not all Chinese leaders are alike. Second, there is no one stereotypic Chinese leadership style in contemporary China. Third, leadership in China is a moving target (18),” allowing for further research and cultural development to occur. In not trying to apply my Western bias, China is moving in the right direction and will experience decades of executive leadership development.

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Firm Diversity and Performance

Posted on November 6, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Richard, Orlando C. Racial Diversity, Business Strategy, and Firm Performance: A Resource-Based View. The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pgs. 164-177.

As is evident by the title, the author examined the correlation between companies’ racial diversity, business strategy, and firm performance. The purpose of this study was to provide insight into these relationships, and according to Richard’s results, demonstrated that cultural diversity is an added value and does have a positive impact on firm performance. Research data is relevant to the banking industry and was collected at the firm level using Sheshunoff Bank Search Database, questionnaires, phone calls, and surveys.

This article focuses on firm level impacts of diversity that are distinct from management. The author uses the term ‘cultural diversity’ to refer to racial diversity. Cultural diversity, according to Cox (1994), is defined as ‘the representation, in one social system, of people with different group affiliations of cultural significance.’ As is proposed by prior readings (Powell and Graves 2003, Elsass and Graves 1997), corporate diversity provides a positive impact on decision-making and corporate culture. According to a study by Watson, Kumar, and Michaelsen (1993), homogenous and heterogeneous groups were evaluated on process and performance effectiveness. Both groups scored the same for process effectiveness, however, heterogeneous groups scored higher in performance effectiveness, illustrating the importance and firm-enhancing impacts of diversity.

Companies compete on varying levels including capital and assets, but according to the author, one of the most important corporate assets are its people. “Strategic human resource management (SHRM) is a means of gaining competitive advantage through one of a company’s most important assets: its people…the concept of human capital are that people have skills, experience, and knowledge that provide economic value to firms (165).” This value is hard to imitate, duplicate, or substitute, thus making knowledge capital a highly valuable asset.

As companies begin to diversify their target audience, their suppliers, or international joint ventures, corporations must be prepared to address varying racio-ethnic differences and customer preferences. This is attainable by diversifying corporate decision-making groups. “As firms reach out to a broader customer base, they need employees who understand particular customer preferences and requirements (165).” The sharing of diverse perspectives will improve performance and decision-making. This led to the first hypothesis, stating racial diversity will be positively associated with firm performance. Again, human capital is a competitive advantage, as long as it remains rare, and unable to replicate, otherwise, competitors will adopt these methods, no longer making it a competitive advantage.

In order for a firm to take advantage of its resources, it must be prepared for growth. There are two forms of growth, internal and external. Internal growth can be achieved by benefiting “from market-related advantages obtained by cultural diversity (167)” by expanding and entering new markets. External growth, suggests expansion, requiring “employees who are flexible in their thinking and who are not likely to be concerned about departing from the status quo (167).” During growth stages, many assets are exploited, in which diverse human capital carry an organization throughout each growth phase. According to the author, human capital exploitation does not match with companies downsizing their personnel, thus leading to the second hypothesis that; higher racial diversity will be positively related to firm performance when the firm pursues a growth strategy and negatively related to firm performance when the firm pursues a downsizing strategy (167).”

Results show that hypothesis 1, which stated cultural diversity is positively associated with firm performance, does not hold true. According to Table 3, which provided a regression analysis for productivity, return on equity, and market performance outcomes, illustrates the lack of correlation. However, hypothesis 2 is supported by step 4 in Table 3 and is visually demonstrated in Figure 1 (pg. 173). Research proves that “racial diversity contributes to a significant change in the multiple squared correlation (R2) for growth firms…similarly, the return on equity regressions show that firms with racial diversity and a growth strategy experienced higher return on equity than firms with the same diversity and a no growth or downsizing strategy (171).” These results may direct future research to evaluate additional diverse corporate studies such as internal and external conditions that may impact diversity efforts and how to improve job design and work structure.

In conclusion, racial diversity and growth strategy bear positive results on corporate and market performance. Results are dependent upon corporate growth strategies, as was demonstrated in research results. This brings to light the importance of HR management and business strategy. Although this article demonstrates the effectiveness of overall diverse decision-making, I would like to see more research on CEO commitment to diversity and how that affects attracting and retaining diverse human capital.

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Diverse Decision-Making Groups

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Elsass, Priscilla M. and Laura M. Graves. Demographic Diversity In Decision-Making Groups: The Experiences of Women and People of Color. Academy of Management Review. 1997. Vol. 2, No. 4, pgs. 946-973.

This study investigates diverse decision-making groups and the experiences of women and racial minorities. In evaluating societal and organizational norms, they use theoretical models to describe basic cognitive and behavioral processes that influence their experiences in decision-making groups. The first model is centered on the Focal Individual’s Experience in a Diverse Work Group and the second model summarizes the focal individual’s role in the group via Patterns of Exchange for Outgroup Members.

The first method, involving Figure 1, the Diverse Work Group model, the authors illustrate a 3-phased developmental process for focal individuals (women and racial minorities), beginning with cognitive, then behavioral, and lastly, their outcomes. “When a work group is formed, its members will engage in social comparison and categorization processes that shape their role expectations (949).” Each individual possesses a self-identity which is based on their social and gender categories. They also have a personal identity which is based on their personal attributes, which is generally their salient features as perceived by others. By salient features, they specifically refer to those perceivable physical characteristics that project either their gender or racioethnicity.

Research proves that salient features such as race and gender are automatically categorized by others, and function as the primary fields of categorization. As women and racial minorities enter groups, categorization of the focal individual is centered around the social dimensions of traits and behaviors. These social expectations are unconsciously imposed upon the focal individual, slowly persuading the individual to adopt those role expectations. These cognitive processes include all social expectations, namely; stereotypes, judgments, biases, and negative expectations, all of which orient dominant members to unconsciously assign low status to women and racial minorities, and consequentially, empowering white males.

Recent research also suggests a positive correlation between interactions of demographic similarity and task competence. However, “the focal woman or person of color may develop negative expectations regarding his or her own group role (950).” Once women and racial minorities internalize the negative expectations, they begin to doubt their own capabilities and competency, reinforcing the negative racial and gender stereotypes. This phenomenon is also cited in Anna Fels article, Do Women Lack Ambition? where she discusses the effects of ambition, mastery, and recognition. In this article, Fels underlines the significance of women receiving less recognition, and thus, losing the ambition to master an art or skill, and finally, losing all ambition for success, withdrawing from group decision making and tasks.

As women and racial minorities withdraw from groups and decision making processes, they also begin to limit their own capacities. “Women and people of color may experience limited opportunities to develop their task skills, which further reinforces their self-doubts (950),” causing majority group members to be less attracted to that gender or racioethnic group and any remaining dissimilar others. According to James Elliot and Ryan Smith’s Race, Gender, and Workplace Power, they discuss homosocial reproduction, the desire to promote and work with members most similar to the majority, as a primary cause to workplace disparities. As long as homosocial reproduction is being practiced, women and racial minorities may not be a beneficiary, thus requiring focal individuals to maintain strong self and social identities in the workplace. Through this vehicle, women and racial minorities will maintain their ambition, mastery, and will receive the necessary amounts of recognition to push for continued success.

The second phase of Figure 1 are the behavioral processes, which focus on the behavioral interactions between focal individuals and the group. The authors divided these interactions into two different exchanges, instrumental and social. “Instrumental exchange refers to the quality of the task-related interchange between the focal individual and the group. Social exchange refers to the quality of the social interchange between the individual and the group, including the extent to which an individual offers social support to others as well as the degree to which this behavior is reciprocated (951).” These exchanges are the basis for Figure 2, the patterns of exchange for outgroup members.

Lastly, the third and final phase of Figure 1, Outcomes, concentrates on the focal individual’s group attachment and contribution. There are two major developments here, with the first stating; a high level of social exchange with focal individual’s will provide support and thus develop a positive attachment to the group, and secondly; positive (supportive) instrumental experiences produces enhanced task behaviors and the quality of these exchanges.

Figure 2 is simplified into 4 quadrants; exclusion, complementing, contributing, and engagement. These four possible patterns of exchange “describe the effects of racioethnicity and gender on the instrumental and social roles of women and people of color in decision-making groups (953).” Exclusion stands in quadrant 2 with low quality of instrumental exchange and low quality of social exchange. The exclusion pattern, low group participation and tasks, fewer influence attempts, leadership oversight, and poor commitment, is connected to fewer established networks and contacts within the organization. This fact is supported by Blass et al.’s article, Politics Understanding and Networking Ability as a Function of Mentoring: The Roles of Gender and Race, in which they prove that women and racial minorities do not have equal access to networks due to the lack of political affiliations and networking opportunities.

Complementing, a rare exchange, consists of low instrumental and high social exchanges. Here, “some individuals may exhibit a preference for social, rather than instrumental, behaviors, which leads to the complementing pattern (957).” Here, focal individuals rely on social group maintenance rather than task activities. Engagement, an uncommon experience, is a high quality and high social exchange, proving that focal individuals “are most likely to experience this pattern when individuals and situational factors minimize the effects of categorization and facilitate the individuals’ participation in task and social interactions (958).” In order for this exchange to occur, salient features such as skin color and other biological physical characteristics must be reduced in order to minimize negative and behavioral stereotypes from developing.

The authors also discuss change triggers, when group members (focal individuals) alter their behaviors depending on internal or external influences, and how it affects diversity-related exchanges. The two categories of triggers are: interpersonal challenges and gaps between actual and desired group outcomes. “Interpersonal challenges arise when a member’s behavior contradicts other members’ role expectations for him or her (963).” There are a multitude of examples, including confidence, denial, positive self-concepts, and so forth.

The second trigger is group outcome gaps. Here, “the focal individual’s role is a gap between the desired and actual outcomes of the group (964).” Outcomes, or rather, successes and failures, may result from group member frustration, imbalance or balance, and even synergy. However, negative outcomes results in inter-group scrutiny, prompting evaluation and problem-solving tactics, often times pinning failures onto focal individuals.

Further research must examine how race and gender affect both task and social behaviors. This is internal assessment is critical for practicing managers, whereas scholars need to focus on longitudinal research in order to properly address individual experiences. These experiences will vary among factors and personal attributes, all of which will affect diverse decision-making group experiences. In conclusion, this research demonstrates that social, racial, and gender factors influence diverse decision-making groups and needs to be further evaluated, and lastly, focal individuals must experience positive task and social interactions in order for diversity efforts to be fruitful.

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Women, Gender, and Ambition

Posted on October 26, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Fels, Anna. Do Women Lack Ambition? Harvard Business Review. April 2004. Pgs. 50-60.

In addressing whether or not women lack ambition, author Anna Fels highlights many different characteristics that may affect women’s pursuit of recognition and ambition. She does this by first evaluating the pursuit of childhood dreams and its external factors such as support and guidance and discusses its progression throughout adulthood, conveying the negative gender-biased influences against women. The two overlapping elements were mastery of a special skill and recognition.

The word “ambition” implies two separate meanings for women and men. According to Fels, this difference in definition and understanding is rooted in socialization and the practice of supportive reinforcement toward children at an early age. “Childhood ambitions were direct and clear. They had a delightfully unapologetic sense of grandiosity and limitless possibility…there was a plan that involved a real accomplishment requiring work and skill, and there was an expectation of approval in the form of fame, status, acclaim, praise, or honor (52).” However, as children age, boys continue to receive the same level of recognition, if not more, whereas girls received less. As children mature and enter the academic systems, girls continue to receive lower levels of recognition and praise compared to boys.

Consistent documentation proves that males receive more recognition than females in school and in the workplace. According to Fels, nursery schools act as structural foundations for which this phenomenon is founded, in that boys receive more attention, direction, and instruction than girls from their teachers. This observable fact carries through to grammar school and college. Throughout college, teachers allow and encourage male domination of classroom participation, even though there are proportionately more women than men pursuing higher education. In the professional setting, characteristics that were characterized as being typically male were rated higher than those assigned to women.

It is also important to consider the development of ambition and mastery. Ambition is fueled by continuous support and guidance in which mastery is completely dependent upon, using ambition as the foundations of mastery, and consequentially, recognition. “An evaluating, encouraging audience must be present for skills to develop…It is vital for the expertise to be recognized by the others (53).” However, women receive lower levels of these attributes, thus increasing the likelihood that women will not receive the recognition they deserve.

Psychologist Jerome Kagan and Howard Moss used a longitudinal study examining the relationship between recognition and mastery. This study followed each participant from childhood through adulthood, confirming that mastery and recognition are hand-in-hand. “Without earned affirmation, long-term learning and performance are rarely achieved (54).” This confirms with the two elements Fels described earlier as being critical to leadership development, both of which are lacking for women. Fels proposed the following question: ‘what’s dashing women’s dreams?’ Several factors unfolded, including; attributing them to luck, deflection, withdrawal, gender expectations, or homosocial affirmation.

Fels references Sylvia Rimm’s best-selling book See Jane Win: The Rimm Report on How 1,000 Girls Became Successful Women, and highlights a couple passages portraying successful professional women attributing their successful careers to luck and being in the right place at the right time, or in other words, being too modest. Women are more apt to deflect recognition rather than accepting it because accepting it may be construed as expressing high-levels of non-gender conforming poise and self-confidence.

However, women exhibit high levels of homosocial affirmation. “According to social context: Girls and women may openly seek and compete for affirmation when they are with other women – for example, in sports or in all-girl academic setting (54).” Social context suggest that women would rather compete amongst themselves than against men, thus competing against a smaller piece of the pie, allowing men to openly challenge and engage in leadership activities. Social context also demonstrates women’s orientation to complement male counterparts as opposed to challenging them. Unfortunately, in order to gain recognition and be seen as feminine, women must unconsciously forfeit recognition and resources.

One method of gender description is the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). This is a 60-descriptive adjective test, providing certain adjectives that had previously been classified as being either masculine or feminine, and are used to evaluate the conscious/unconscious assignment of traditional feminine and masculine traits. Results show that the concept of femininity places relationships as its focal point, meaning that women must provide something for another, albeit a husband, boss, child, etc. “Giving is the chief activity that defines femininity (56).” On the contrary, the male identity is based on independence and the ability to influence others. Fortunately, today’s college-aged women are beginning to identify with traditionally-assigned masculine traits; however, research has not been able to conclude how this shift has occurred.

Although this positive social advancement is growing stronger, it comes at the expense of home or work life. Women must “have first satisfied the needs of all their family members: husbands, children, elderly parents, and others, (58)” before fulfilling ‘ambitious’ endeavors. To combat this belief, Fels proposes 5 recommendations and observations; organize, don’t expect things to fall into place, provide for structures of recognition, blow your own horn, and to realize it’s never too late.

Fels also reminds us that recognition and mastery are not the only factors in leadership development. Women must also believe that they will succeed. “Boys and men, by contrast, have repeatedly been shown to have an inflated estimation of their capabilities, (59)” thus providing them with an inherent belief system that helps to stimulate ambition. Women on the contrary, are more likely to abandon their ambitions because their goals are not satisfying enough and don’t receive adequate recognition for them. Today, most women do not encounter this problem until they have entered the workforce and are threatened with career and or life ultimatums.

This article seems to agree with this weeks readings (Elsass and Graves – Demographic Diversity), where they evaluate diverse decision-making groups. In this article, research demonstrates that women and racial minorities are marginalized and denied access to their full potential. In conclusion, Fels’ article concludes that recognition, mastery, and ambition are interdependent, and are each critical to women’s leadership development. By using the BSRI and social context theories, Fels proves that women do not lack ambition, but rather, lack the resources necessary for success.

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Gender National Differences in Leadership

Posted on October 24, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Gibson, Cristina B. An Investigation of Gender Differences in Leadership across Four Countries. Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2. (2nd Qtr., 1995), pp. 255-279.

This study investigates the influences of gender, culture, and nationality on management leadership styles. The author focuses on four countries and two cultural dyads, Norway and Sweden, and Australia and the United States. The author’s framework explores five leadership behaviors and six leadership styles by using over 200 managers, 55% male and 45% female, to complete a questionnaire and conduct interviews. While proposing 12 separate hypotheses, “post-hoc analyses suggest that across all four countries, males emphasize the goal setting dimension, while females emphasize the interaction facilitation dimension (255).” Although this study discusses sample and limitations to its effectiveness, it demonstrated that there gender and national origin do affect leadership styles.

The three main objectives for this study are to evaluate how gender, culture, and nationality influence leadership. Much of the research was based on Eagly [1987] work on communal and agentic qualities. Communal qualities are oriented toward others, including affection, sympathy, and the ability to nurture, all of which are traditionally assigned to female characteristics. Agentic qualities are oriented toward aggressiveness, goal-setting, independence, and decisiveness, all of which are traditionally assigned to male characteristics. Both qualities are expected to be fulfilled by their respective gender assignments, proving that the communal qualities are more highly valued among women and agentic for men.

As previous research has demonstrated (Powell and Graves), female leaders exhibit transformational characteristics whereas male leaders exhibit transactional leadership styles. Research has proven that female leadership involves communal interactions, encouraging group participation and the development of the others through motivation and empathy, whereas men execute transactional behavior on the basis of rewards and punishment.

In addition to gender influences, the author sets out to demonstrate cultural influences on behavior. In using the definition of culture by Kluckhohn [1951:86], the author proposes that culture requires communal sharing of values, symbols, feelings, and thought processes, and that, within a country, individuals would share these same value orientations, and thus, value the same leadership qualities and performance measures. In short, it is expected that similar countries will share similar values, which is why the author has paired the four countries for equal comparison and evaluation.

The first three hypotheses tested evaluate whether gender, culture, and country would have any significant effects onto leadership behavior and styles. Countries that often share similar cultural values often times group together, thus exercising similar business practices and measures. In countries like Australia and the U.S., who ranks high in masculinity and self-reliance, would value competitiveness and sympathy for the strong, whereas countries like Norway and Sweden would not rank high in masculinity and value solidarity and sympathy for the weak. In order to evaluate the validity of these statements, the author used Flamholtz leadership framework model.

This model includes five leadership behavioral dimensions; goal emphasis, interaction facilitation, work facilitation, supportive behavior, and personnel development. In assessing leadership styles, Flamholtz [1986] devised a six leadership style continuum, including; autocratic, benevolent autocratic, consultative, participative, consensus, and laissez-faire, all of which range from directive to non-directive. This framework served as the basis for the next seven hypotheses that involved assigning agentic qualities, such as goal setting and work facilitation to men and communal qualities to women via interaction facilitation, supportive behavior, and personnel development. The last two hypotheses evaluated national origin and its affects onto leadership behavior and styles.

The author used the Leadership Effectiveness Questionnaire (LEQ) that was developed by Flamholtz [1986], to measure the behavioral and leadership styles mentioned earlier. Scores were correlated with the Leadership Behavior Descriptive Questionnaire (LBDQ), which is used in leadership research and papers. The LBDQ measures relationship-emphasis and task-emphasis. These methods seem to hold true across cultural applicability.

Research results on the goal setting and interaction facilitation dimensions demonstrated that “males scored significantly higher on goal setting (M= 6.16) than did females (M= 5.64) indicating that males tend to emphasize this dimension more than females (268).” Conversely, women scored significantly higher than men on interaction facilitation, indicating females emphasize interaction facilitation methods more than the goal setting dimension, thus confirming the first hypothesis. Regarding the second hypothesis, Australia scored the lowest in interaction facilitation and laissez-faire style dimensions, but scored the highest in benevolent autocratic style, demonstrating that Australians place strong value on goal setting and autocratic styles, as opposed to communal development.

Research results also proved the third hypothesis to be invalid, as male and female leaders across all four countries, shared different leadership behavior standards. Goal setting and interaction facilitation were the two most varied dimensions across gender, confirming hypotheses four and six. “However, no gender differences were obtained on any other behavior or style dimensions (thus P5, P7, P8, P9, and P10 were not confirmed) (271).” These findings suggest that male leaders do not directly require following agentic qualities as prescribed earlier, and that female leaders do not require communal qualities either. Thus, men and women may equally value improvements and 360° relations.

What I would like to see further research on is the prediction of Australian evolution of leadership behavior and styles, particularly because of increasing immigration and globalization. Also, as Australia made recent political announcements to immigrants trying to ‘Americanize’ Australia, the Prime Minister publicly proclaimed to the world that immigrants must adopt to Australian style of living and that the country will not conform to immigrant practices and cultures. Will this political position affect future business practices and operations? I predict so, but this research may serve as a compliment to studies using Australia in comparison to other countries.

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Politics, Networking, and Mentoring Regarding Race and Gender

Posted on October 20, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Blass, Fred R., Robyn L. Brouer, Pamela L. Perrewe, Gerald R. Ferris. Politics Understanding and Networking Ability as a Function of Mentoring: The Roles of Gender and Race. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies. Vol. 14, No. 2. Nov 2007. Pgs. 93-104.

The authors devised their hypotheses around the premise that employees who have access to networks and mentorship programs will receive higher benefit than those who do not have mentors and networks. Those employees who most strongly benefit from mentorship and networks are white men and those at the greatest disadvantage are women and racial minorities. Those with mentors will report a greater understanding of internal organizational politics, and thus, will have a greater political and organizational success.

This article focuses on Van Maanen and Schein’s (1979) taxonomy of socialization, with particular emphasis on serial tactic, which suggests that experienced workers and managers will act as role models for new members. “The serial approach is commonly referred to as ‘mentoring,’ because experienced members essentially groom newcomers who are destined to assume similar positions in an organization (94).” One example provided is a more senior police officer showing the novice cop ‘the ropes,’ resulting in increased exposure and visibility. As the level and frequency of visibility increases, so to does their work networks and networking abilities increase.

One of the advantages to establishing organizational networks is that you are more visible. As managers and supervisors search to promote internal candidates, those with strong networks are first to be considered. “Individuals who are well socialized into organizational politics may be more promotable than those who are well socialized with people (94).” Strong performance and high evaluation scores are not key factors in advancement under this theory. The networking advantage is a direct result from learning the internal game of politics, demonstrating that mentees develop a set of organizational competencies, including expectations, informal rules, and boundaries that provide them with necessary resources for career advancement.

Learning the ropes also includes learning and adopting the social nuances of a new environment. The development of political skills grants individuals with the ability to understand ‘shared meanings’ among peers and superiors. They define political skill as “the ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal and/or organizational objectives (95).” This definition of political skill does not allude to gender or racial differences, however, and implies a degree of cultural assimilation, a concept that is not so easy for women and racial minorities.

The development of political skills also suggests that access is required in order to gain access to various political networks. Organizational politics, as mentioned earlier, requires a degree of assimilation, and as more experienced members ‘groom’ their protégés, it is natural to select those most similar to you. As Elliot and Smith wrote in Race, Gender, and Workplace Power (2004), race and gender are key components to network access and promotion, most prominently through homosocial reproduction (select someone most similar to you). Those dissimilar to superiors are less likely to gain access to information that is critical to career advancement, and thus, will not participate in network development as well as others, resulting in “two groups of people: the aware ‘insiders’ and the unaware ‘outsiders’ (96).” As white men are typically in superior positions, they set the organizational tone and thus, decide who will reside in which groups of people.

Most organizational politics are taught through informal social interactions, and as women and racial minorities remain as dissimilar to their superiors, they will remain as the unaware ‘outsiders.’ Women and racial minorities are at a disadvantage, forced to participate in organizational politics with political deficiencies, resulting in fewer promotions and networking capabilities. The low percentage of their managerial presence (excluding qualifications) suggests that either they are not politically savvy or that they are not adopting strategic tactics that make them attractive to networks, and or, white men.

In conclusion, organizational political deficiencies is a reasonable assumption in defining the low percentages of women and racial minorities in senior positions. However, the women and racial minorities that do succeed are considered as exceptions, most likely due to a select number of similar superiors who fulfilled homosocial reproduction, providing them access to information and opportunities that would enhance their political abilities. “Results indicated that mentoring had significant indirect effects on networking ability through its relationship with politics understanding (100).” This confirms hypothesis 2 and 3, in that strong political understanding would help mediate the relationships between networks (white men) and networking abilities, but would not increase mediation or benefits for dissimilar others (non-whites).

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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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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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