EXPLORING THE INFLUENCE OF DECISION MAKERS' RACE AND GENDER ON ACTUAL PROMOTIONS TO TOP MANAGEMENT

Authors

  • GARY N. POWELL,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Management University of Connecticut
      and requests for reprints should be addressed to Gary N. Powell, University of Connecticut, 2100 Hillside Road, Unit 1041, Storrs, CT 06269-1041; gary@business.uconn.edu.
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  • D. ANTHONY BUTTERFIELD

    1. Department of Management University of Massachusetts
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  • This research was supported by faculty research grants from the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts. We express our deep appreciation to the federal department and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for granting us access to data on promotion decisions, and to their people whose cooperation and hard work made this study possible. We also thank Blake Ashforth for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of the article.

and requests for reprints should be addressed to Gary N. Powell, University of Connecticut, 2100 Hillside Road, Unit 1041, Storrs, CT 06269-1041; gary@business.uconn.edu.

Abstract

The effects of decision makers' race and gender on promotion decisions about applicants of diverse race and gender for 51 top management positions in a cabinet-level U.S. federal department over a 12-year period were examined. Promotion decisions were made in a 2-stage process. First, a review panel decided which applicants to refer for the position. Second, the selecting official selected one of the referred applicants for the position. Overall, decisions by review panels of different race and gender composition and by selecting officials of different race and gender were to the advantage of female applicants and to the disadvantage of African American and Hispanic male applicants. These effects were not fully accounted for by race or gender differences in applicant qualifications, or by any of several theoretical explanations for the effects of race and gender on promotions to top management.

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