Research Shows Black Women Leaders Suffer from "Double Jeopardy" When Organizations Fail Disproportionate sanctions for on-the-job mistakes

July 15, 2012
Diversity, Leadership

Disproportionate sanctions for on-the-job mistakes

DURHAM, N.C. -- New research confirms that black women suffer from "double jeopardy," experiencing more negative leader perceptions than black men and white women when organizations fail. When organizations succeed, all three of those groups are evaluated less positively than white men.

These are among the findings from Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, management professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and Robert W. Livingston, professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. The research is included in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The researchers found that black women may be differentially evaluated, relative to other groups, depending on whether their organizational performance is positive or negative. Negative performance can be especially damaging to black women because their two subordinate identities generally do not allow for a positive attribution for the negative behavior. In other words, the propensity to negatively evaluate Black women as ineffective leaders when unsuccessful organizational outcomes occur will be bolstered by the categorization of black women as unlikely, atypical leaders, i.e., the "double jeopardy" of not being white and not being male.

Because black women possess not just one, but two, subordinate identities – neither of which has been shown to be particularly typical of the leader role – they will be perceived most negatively in a context of failure when compared to black men and white women. In particular, three factors – race (black), gender (women), and performance (failure) – are consistent because none of them is indicative of typical leadership


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