Management or top positions in an American organization are among the fastest-growing occupations during the period of the past 20 years. Unfortunately, these occupations include jobs not traditionally held by African American women who comprise the new workforce. Consequently, one challenge for American companies is to incorporate a more diverse labor force into high-status, high-skill management roles.
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In Part-I of this paper, we examine the current status of African American women in management, including some current changes. We discover potential remedies for the problems that endure, including programs and practices currently being applied in U.S. companies, as well as research directions that may increase our understanding of related issues.
The literature on African American women is substantial, evidenced in part by the number of literature reviews done.
There is substantial evidence that African American women encounter a “glass ceiling” in management. The glass ceiling is an idea popularized in the 1990s to describe a barrier so subtle that it is transparent yet so strong that it prevents African American women from moving up in the top positions of an organization or management hierarchy. Nowadays, women fill nearly a third of all management posts, but most are stuck in jobs with little authority and relatively low pay.
African American women do not fare any better in management in government or educational institutions. The American government reported only 8.6 percent, women, in Senior Executive Service levels, with most female employees clustered in low-paying, non-prestigious GS 5–10 levels. In the education sector, Sandler’s 1986 findings show that “on the average, colleges and universities nationwide employ 1.1 senior women (dean and above) per institution” (p. 14).
Those African American women who have moved into management often find reward differentials. There is proof that at higher occupational levels, women are less satisfied with their package than are men (Varca, Shaffer, & McCauley, 1983). One study of 2,600 workers found substantial wage differences between men and women in managerial positions (Drazin & Auster, 1987); another reported that “women at the vice presidential levels and above earn 42 percent less than their male peers” (Nelton & Berney, 1987, p. 17). Packages of Black men in management come closer to those of White men (Ploski & Williams, 1983).
The exodus of African American women from corporate America is a disturbing trend sometimes attributed to differential treatment in management (Ellis, 1988; James, 1988; Leinster, 1988; Taylor, 1986). Women began their own businesses at six times the rate that men did between 1974 and 1984 (Leavitt, 1988). Of the 100 leading corporate women identified by a Business Week survey in 1976, nearly one-third had left their corporate jobs for other pursuits ten years later (DeGeorge, 1987).
In the corporate life οf the United States, several cultural differences in the women belonging to Hispanic (Latina), African American, and Asian American groups affect their evaluations. And this is the main reason behind a very short presence οf women from these communities in management. For instance, studies have demonstrated that African American men may view overweight women less negatively than their White counterparts (e.g., Harris, Walters, & Waschull, 1991), which may influence African American women’s acceptance οf higher body weights.
In addition, some researchers have found that, for a subset οf African American women, obesity, along with eating “right” (i.e., not engaging in restrictive dieting), and engaging in stress-reducing activities, was associated with a perception οf health (e.g., Keller & Hargrove, 1992). One study οf 100 African American female and 100 White female college students provides evidence suggesting that anorexia and bulimia in African American female college students are associated with the extent οf their assimilation into mainstream culture and their acceptance οf mainstream culture ideals οf attractive as thin (Abrams et al., 1993). Thus, identification with African American culture and its ideals, rather than with mainstream Euro-American culture, may be a protective factor for overweight or obese African American women.
The extent οf assimilation into the mainstream Euro-American culture versus identification with African American culture seems to influence both the acceptance and internalization οf the mainstream thin standard and the likelihood οf engaging in restrictive, disordered dieting behaviors (Harris, 1994; Klem, Klesges, Benet, & Mellon, 1990). Differences in acceptance οf and identification with mainstream standards and culture, socioeconomic status, as well as individual characteristics may influence the degree to which African American women internalize mainstream dominant standards for thinness and beauty.
As noted byHarris (1994), clearly, neither African American women in general nor obese/overweight African American women are a homogeneous population. Many obese or overweight African American women may be content with their physical selves and may not experience any significant obesity-related health problems. Despite Harris’ (1994) finding that African American women reported greater overall body satisfaction than Euro-American women, Hsu (1987) suggests that restrictive eating disturbances among African American women may be increasing.
African American women who experience significant health problems or concerns related to obesity or overweight and/or who internalize the thin ideal standard evaluate themselves negatively in comparison to the ideal and may experience body dissatisfaction and considerable personal distress concerning the management οf their weight and appearance.
Even though Terri Hansen dreamt οf one day owning her own business, she always wanted to keep things simple.
“I only wanted to have five employees,” confessed Hansen, the owner, and president οf four Oshkosh-based businesses that employ about 100 people in the Fox Valley.
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After earning her master’s degree in nursing at the University οf Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1980, Hansen embarked on an administrative career that only reinforced her desire to start a small company.
“I ended up being the director οf nursing for four counties,” she said. “I had this enormous responsibility but no authority to change the things that needed to be changed.”
So at age 28, she and partner John Westphal launched Supportive HomeCare Inc. The home-based health care firm blossomed in Oshkosh so quickly it soon had more clients than it could easily handle.
Hansen purchased the company outright in 1987 and a year later started her second business, Creative Management & Marketing Resources Inc., with her friend Diane Penzenstadler.
“It was always our dream to start a company together,” Hansen said. “Diane’s expertise is in marketing and graphic design, so she’s the brains on the creative side. My background is more in business management.”
By design, CMMR is equipped to provide small businesses with everything from brochures to human resource management.
“When you run your own business, you end up learning a lot about things you don’t necessarily want to know,” Hansen said οf her motivation in developing CMMR. “You end up having so much knowledge to share – knowledge that could save other business owners a lot οf grief.”
The importance οf endurance is a lesson Hansen said she learned firsthand.
In 1986, the private health insurance industry stopped paying claims for home care services, even as Medicaid and Medicare began reducing the amounts they were willing to pay for home care. As a result, Supportive HomeCare lost a large portion οf its business.
Instead οf pulling back, Hansen chose instead to launch two new businesses. One, Home Maids, established in 1992, arose from requests for cleaning services by busy professionals and other people without special medical needs, she said. The other, Supportive Home Companions, is an unlicensed corporation founded in 1995 in response to progressively more stringent governmental restrictions placed upon licensed home care providers.
“The state and federal rules are incredibly demanding and expensive for the home care provider, and most offer no value to the client,” Hansen said. “For instance, if a client wants to cancel her service for a day because her family is visiting, we have to call her doctor to get his permission not to come. Otherwise, we’re in violation οf the doctor’s orders.
“I always have to be very careful that I don’t allow what the government is doing to change our core business philosophy,” she said. “We are here to serve our customers, to provide quality care at a reasonable price.”
Hansen’s ability to overcome adversity as a small business operator was recognized in 1991 when Supportive HomeCare beat out 800 other nominees to win Wisconsin’s Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative contest, sponsored nationally by the U.S. Chamber οf Commerce and Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. Hansen became the first female president οf the Oshkosh Chamber οf Commerce in 1994 and earned the local chamber’s top award for volunteerism the following year.
John Casper, executive director οf the Oshkosh Chamber, said Hansen made a profound impact during and after her presidency. “She is aggressive in her approach to business, and when she gets involved in something, she really pours herself into it,” Casper said. “She gave οf her time and experience in helping the chamber raise its standard and do a better job in all areas. As a business person, her greatest strength is in being able to understand the demographics οf the market, then tailoring a service or product designed to fill that void.”
Hansen’s ambitious streak remains. She plans to expand the list οf services now offered by her home care companies.
“We’re looking at adding a handyman service, where someone can come over to fix a light switch or weed a garden – the non-technical jobs around the house,” she said. “I had a client ask if we would come out and plant a garden for her, and I said, ‘Absolutely. I’ll come over and do it right now if you like.’” Hansen credited her employees for much οf the success.
“I’ve been successful because οf the quality people who work with me,” she said, adding that some οf her managers have worked with her for 15 years. “I could leave for a month, and they could run the whole business without knowing I was gone.”
That’s one οf the benefits οf having more than five employees.
In the periods of 1940s and 1950s, very few women were seen in the management of American corporate life. In the early decades of the twentieth century, many American households were equipped with the new labor-saving appliances that facilitated housework. Despite this technological assistance, many American women faced with rising standards of cleanliness and the society’s aim of “professionalizing” the business of raising a family found themselves engrossed with the time-consuming task of running a household. Such an unalterable social disposition disabled women from pursuing a career or any other interest.
They were confined to this extremely narrow framework of possible social existence. However, some women of the United States had experienced a different perspective on possible social activity during the years of World War I, when due to the lack of workforce, women were employed in munitions factories or tended to family farms while the men were away. When the war ended, many of them were reluctant to give up their jobs and return to the dreadful routine of managing a household. Ironically, society had no problem in accepting the idea of single women working. On the other hand, married women were to remain homemakers and mothers.
The pressure to conform was tremendous, and some Canadian magazines such as Canadian Home Journal and MacLean’s professed that women who tried to work and raise a family at the same time discovered true happiness only when they left their jobs behind. The female identity was restricted to the centuries-old picture of a mother and a housekeeper. The ideal of “domestic bliss” turned out to be a prison imposed on women, who found themselves trapped in the cage of the stereotyped vision of a woman as incapable of becoming anything else apart from a mere housewife.
“Another Poem About the Madness of Women” by Tom Wayman and “This is a Photograph of Me” by Margaret Atwood present us with disturbing and touching images of women trapped in their own houses and women who are in a terrible struggle to recover their identity as complete human beings. Tom Wayman depicts a woman demented by the repetitive work she performs in her house. Society, and even her family, are blind to her basic human need for freedom.
It is a woman whose husband and children devise a treatment of her madness, which consists in her passing through a department store and getting out through the door which opens on the opposite side of the street. She must walk through the crowd of hurrying faces and displays of merchandise, which are a metaphor for the distant and uncompassionate society which has no regard for her. This image is followed by the depiction of the women in pioneer Iowa, trapped in their houses, alone all day.
All they can see from their windows are cornfields, “high as a man,” which stretched for miles around their houses. Eventually, in the isolation of their homes, they perceive the cornfields, that is, the man-dominated world outside their dominion of house, as a “whispering and hissing” monster. The imagery of the poem brings us back to suburban America, where the woman taking out the garbage bags sees nothing but houses all around her and perceives that there is a woman, just like her, in each one. Wayman accurately states the position of women degraded into housekeeping automatons who lead a life deprived of any possibility to outgrow the nightmarish framework that society imposes on them.
Margaret Atwood’s “This is a Picture of Me” expresses the writer’s perception of the position of women in society- “a small frame house.” The poem seductively draws the attention from the blurry imagery to the description of the lake in the background. All the important things in the poem are revealed in a roundabout manner, and, in the same way, the fact that the speaker of the poem is drowned lurks in the brackets. This deepens the feeling of some things being left out and marginalized. Concealed behind the social scenery lies an invisible and lifeless woman. Her image, that is, her identity, is so distorted that she becomes noticeable only after a long time.
Women are dehumanized and dispossessed of any possibility of abandoning the pattern that oppressive and exploitative male-governed society had imposed on them. Atwood’s poem is a desperate search for identity, which has been stripped of female individuals in patriarchal societies. The aim of this elaborate and age-long subjection of women to the mechanism of men’s vision of the world is to disable women from perceiving their real nature and to alienate them from the rest of society. Women have successfully turned aside, left there hopeless and forever bound to the stereotype of a mother, and a housewife, which contributes to the survival of men-dominated reality.
Since the Great Depression and with the enormous prestige of victory in World War II, the party of government has been more or less in charge, controlling Congress and the organs of our culture. It was not seriously tested until 1980, and even so, it then survived the Reagan years almost intact. President Reagan refused to challenge it in critical areas–federal spending grew rapidly–and liberal control of Congress continued.
The Bush and Clinton administrations saw a return to liberal normalcy, and it was argued that the Reagan elections had been anomalies or merely personal victories for the old actor. It turns out, of course, that the Reagan victories reflected a broad popular revulsion at the liberal critique of America and the attitudes and program associated with it. This is why George Bush won when he appeared to be Reagan III but lost when he seemed to desert the cause, and why every incumbent defeated in 1994 was a Democrat.
The reason for optimism is that 50 years of lecturing by their supposed betters have not persuaded the American people that the eternal verifies of yesteryear–family, work, and faith, and the greatness of America–are instruments of repression. There is a new consensus forming that recognizes how much is lost when the government subsidizes illegitimacy, restricts religious activity, promotes radical views of male-female relationships, divides citizens according to race, or vigorously attempts to undermine the sense of a common history and culture. Both the size and power of government and the ends it so often seeks now meet resistance and criticism unthinkable 25 years ago.
What we are seeing is an end to the disjunction between the citizen acting as a voter and the citizen acting in private life. As parents or children, neighbors or colleagues, employers or employees, Americans never lost respect for the “old” virtues.
If the citizen as a voter cast his ballot for liberal candidates, it was to deploy a safety net, expand opportunity, or fight injustice. But liberal government grew beyond these limited goals decades ago, and the gap between the virtues the citizen celebrated in private life, and the goals he supported with his vote began to grow. Now it is too large, and the voter is using his ballot to insist that government reinforce rather than subvert the virtues he cherishes in private life.
Regaining lost ground will be most difficult, for it is much easier to damage society than to repair it. Even the strongest consensus in society and the largest majority in Washington cannot quickly fix broken families or schools, reduce urban crime, or lower the abortion rate, when it took decades to break down the restraints and undermine the social and moral standards that once prevented the spread of those pathologies. There will be many more Bill Clintons: candidates who prove that La Rochefoucauld was right in calling hypocrisy the tribute vice pays to virtue. But now that American society has begun to reassert its belief in the existence of vice and virtue alike and in the worth of its own values, traditions, and achievements, there is reason to believe that the prospect for the country is a good one.
For more than a decade, the quantification οf utility loss resulting from increased hiring οf members οf lower-performing groups has become an issue for both researchers and policymakers concerned with selection fairness. Because the job performance οf minority hires is typically found to be, on average, lower than the job performance οf majority hires (Bernardin, 1984; Campbell, Crooks, Mahoney, & Rock, 1973; Ford, Kraiger, & Schechtman, 1986; Gael & Grant, 1972; Gael, Grant, & Ritchie, 1975), our focus is on the impact οf increased minority hiring on job performance. Specifically, this article examines the performance loss resulting from hiring minority applicants at a rate in excess οf that is recommended by a valid, top-down, single-list procedure (i.e., fair according to the Cleary, 1968, definition).
This may occur when organizations attempt to increase the group’s representation within the workforce or when organizations are forced by the courts to hire minorities at applicant representative rates, or even at rates in excess οf the minority representation, to compensate for past discriminatory organizational behavior (e.g., Arnold v. Ballard, 1975; Commonwealth οf Pennsylvania v. O’Neill, 1972).
Our objectives do not include arguing for or against increased minority hiring. Obviously, an organization needs to consider other factors beyond the impact on performance when addressing this issue. Other factors include the benefit to the minority group, indirect benefits οf a diversified perspective that cultural diversity provides, and costs associated with litigation οf unfair discrimination lawsuits. These and other factors may, ultimately, outweigh the importance οf performance. However, the cost οf performance is an important facet and should be explicitly quantified and integrated with other information in deciding on the appropriate level οf minority hiring.
Previous research has addressed the impact οf increased minority hiring on performance. The earliest research restricted itself to available selection fairness models and their associated levels οf minority hiring (Hunter, Schmidt, & Rauschenberger, 1977). The results from that research are still valuable today, as witnessed by current references to such selection models. For example, Hartigan and Wigdor (1989) recommended the use οf fair-selection-model adjustments to minority scores to give equal employment opportunity to able minority applicants and able majority applicants. Although this recommendation can be psychometrically supported, the choice οf which οf the alternative fair-selection-model adjustments is most appropriate is difficult for at least two reasons.
First, different definitions οf fairness will yield different adjustments (e.g., Cole, 1973; Darlington, 1971; Thorndike, 1971). Second, a purely psychometrically based adjustment may not address the employer’s concerns related to the impact on performance. Employers are not, for example, primarily concerned with the psychometric issue οf the impact οf validity on the hiring οf minority applicants. Rather, they are most concerned with the performance loss associated with increasing minority representation to meet legal and socially perceived levels οf fairness.
Hunter et al.’s (1977) research were useful for quantifying performance losses within the levels οf minority hiring recommended by four fair-selection models (e.g., Thorndike’s, 1971, Constant Ratio Model). Their research illustrated the relatively low performance and corresponding monetary utility losses associated with each οf the models in comparison with the corresponding gain in minority representation.
Cronbach, Yalow, and Schaeffer (1980) presented data critical to this discussion. They proposed and analyzed the gains and losses associated with the full continua οf minority hiring. Although their framework was useful because it quantified expected performance losses as a function οf the entire range οf minority hiring, their performance measure was dichotomously scaled. Their primary measure οf utility was the proportion οf “satisfactory” workers among those hired.
However, the concept οf a minimum performance score discards valuable information about one’s performance. In addition, a performance cutoff point does not logically exist in most situations. Simply because the hiring decision is dichotomous does not mean that job performance must also be dichotomous. Cronbach et al.’s scaling οf performance were less realistic and less useful for estimating performance loss than a continuous scaling οf performance.
In contrast with Cronbach et al. (1980), Kroeck, Barrett, and Alexander (1983) used a continuously scaled performance measure in their application οf the Cronbach et al. model. However, they focused on the level οf recruitment necessary to increase minority hiring while avoiding hiring applicants below a specified minimum standard. They discovered that recruitment would have to be increased by a substantially large, and at times unrealistic, factor to avoid performance losses from increased minority hiring.
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