Friday, March 12, 2010

Gender and Diversity Issues

Whether it's in building a new organization or realizing the most productive way to manage an existing workforce, one key element has always been to understand gender differences and diversity issues. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business have explored career paths, corporate cultures, and the role of stereotypes, among other topics.

Information compiled by The Library on women executives and career tracks.

Research on Gender and Diversity Issues

People in the Minority May Know Themselves Better

One benefit of knowing you're in the minority is a clearer sense of self, says marketing Professor S. Christian Wheeler. Business organizations, which have been shown to improve their decision making when diverse ideas are present, may therefore want to think about more structured ways for encouraging naysayers to speak up.

Self-Identified Multiracial Individuals Realize Real Benefits

Individuals who identified with multiple ethnic or racial groups reported either equal or higher psychological well-being and social engagement than those who identified primarily with a single group, say researchers trying to understand multiracial psychology.

New Take on Affirmative Action Individuals who oppose affirmative action may do so because they're more worried about disadvantaging their group than about benefiting a minority group, says researcher Brian Lowery who is developing a new take on affirmative action.

Diverse Backgrounds and Personalities Can Strengthen Groups Groups with diverse functional expertise, education, or personality can increase performance by enhancing creativity or group problem-solving. In contrast, more visible diversity, such as race, gender, or age, can have negative effects unless it's managed properly, says Margaret Neale.

Good News and Bad for Women's Careers Women across the board seem to be enjoying greater parity with men-except in "good-old-boy companies," where a woman's personal style and needs for work/family balance may clash with organizational expectations, values, and demands.

Tempered Radicals They are under-the-radar rebels who lead social change from within large corporations by taking advantage of "small wins." And these tempered radicals can make a big difference in their organizations.

Racial Stereotypes Can Be Unconscious but Reversible Racial stereotypes can creep into the subconscious without warning, coloring decisions even by people who disavow any type of prejudice.

Newcomers Improve Group Performance When newcomers join a group, their presence can cause stress and even present problems for older group members who ally with them, but Professor Margaret Neale says the pain is worth the gain.

In the Company of Women How does gender shape the early evolution of small companies? Observers have long noted that women are underrepresented in the young, fast-growing firms that dot Silicon Valley. Now, a long term study of high-tech startups identifies factors that can predict how hospitable firms are to women and challenges the common assumption that access for women is uniformly low across technology firms.

Diversity and Work Group Performance A little employee conflict can be a good thing. Having employees from diverse organizational backgrounds or those with informational diversity can stir constructive conflict around the task at hand. Professor Margaret Neale says this is the type of conflict absolutely should be engendered in organizations.

How do White Males Fare in the Heterogeneous Workplace? As greater numbers of women, ethnic minorities, and other "nontraditional" employees join the workforce, the increasing heterogeneity of employee groups has had a greater negative effect on white males than on nonwhites or women, researchers say.