COMM 333-Organizational Communication

last updated 11/22/2013

Gender and Ethnicity Barriers

Organizational and Career outcomes tend to be different for women and minorities than for the "typical white male."  Why?  Several possibilities exist.

  1. Are there actual differences in performance?  Goals?  Work history? Interpersonal skills?  Experience, education and training?

  2. Are there systemic barriers?  Less access to informal networks?  Less mentoring?  Less "valuable" opportunities for experience and visibility.

  3. Is there discrimination?  "Helpful" stereotyping?  Tokenism?

      Research suggests perceptions (on both sides) play an important role.

A.  Perceptual Bias #1 - We see what we expect and or want to see (in both what we attend to and how we interpret it.  And we have a preference for similarity (same behaviors are interpreted differently by sex) (see meritocracy handout)

Strategies that may help overcome this problem:

    1. Learn and use the language of the organization.
    2. Carefully monitor self-image.

  B.  Perceptual Bias #2 - Requirement of Loyalty

  • Meeting the loyalty “requirement” involves appearing to raise the organization’s needs to the highest priority in your life
  • It's very hard for working wives/mothers to sacrifice familiy (an index of loyalty).

Strategies that may help overcome this problem:

    1. Since loyalty is symbolically constructed, use other symbols to sell your loyalty to organization (e.g. longevity)
    2. If married, negotiate with your spouse on this (or delay marriage for career?).
    3. Choose your job with this in mind.

C.  Perceptual Bias #3 - The Visibility paradox.  As a minority you are likely to be especially visible as a "role model" but old boy networks don't carry information on women's successes as well men’s successes. 

Strategies that may help overcome this problem

      1. Cultivate a mentor
        1.  to get information and expertise and
        2.  to get PR but
        3. watch out for perceived dependency
      2. Network within your organization and beyond!!

Some Resources on Sexual Harassment


Diversity Management Principles

    1. Manage and reward performance (as opposed to rewarding conformity cultural superficialities)
    2. Matching people and jobs
    3. Inform and involve people in setting organizational goals (esp. performance and communication practice expectations) and in establishing diversity goals
    4. Support diverse work styles (flex time, etc.)
    5. Avoid the "PC" problem of backlash.  [ The cognitive dissonance finding. ]

Accommodation vs Its Critics. 

(The approach described above is often called “accommodation.”)

    1. The accommodation strategy has 5 points
      1. Develop an exceptional record of performance.
      2. Strive to fit in with your organizations culture.
      3. Cultivate mentors.
      4. Network!
      5. Seek and get high-power assignments and positions
    2. Critics respond to this by saying
      1. Accommodation strategies are ineffective
      2. It’s difficult if not impossible to “perform” as a white male if you aren’t (and not fair to expect people to become someone else in their work life).
      3. Accommodation only continues the problem
      4. Accommodation reduces the values of diversity (similar to the values of conflict) to the organization.
    3. A Response to critics is that many accommodationists act as innovators and make long-term change to organization.  Accommodation not coercion is the route to cultural change. 
    4. Critics may exaggerate the weaknesses of accommodation but are right about unequal bases of power for women and minorities.

  Material on this page adapted from Charles Conrad. Strategic Organizational Communication: Toward the Twenty-first Century. New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1985 and 1994.