A few weeks ago, the first female Secretary of State, splashed herself with some hot water with a comment she made about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other,” she said. Naturally, the quip enraged a lot of people, particularly young women, who tend to favor Bernie Sanders as their presidential choice. (Gloria Steinem also made some unsavory comments the same day, but that’s a story for another time). But it turns out that Albright is wrong about there being a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other: even those who do are less likely to be less trusted than white guys.
New research from the Academy of Management Journal indicates that when minorities or women hire or promote other minorities and women, peers and supervisors view them less favorably, because people assume that people are only hiring women and minorities to fill a diversity quota—not because they’re right for the job. The only people who don’t lose points for hiring women and minorities are—you guessed it—white men
“Basically everyone surveyed in this study got penalized for hiring somebody who looked like themselves—except white guys,” confirms David Hekman, associate professor of management at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, a co-author of the paper.
White men are still associated with being better employees and more competent managers. 85 percent of top executives and board members on the S&P 500 are white men, Hekman pointed out. Unconscious racial bias has taken root in business and it’s refusing hard to let go—though companies are trying. More of them roll out diversity programs every year, hoping to lessen bias’ impact on the hiring process, though racial and gender bias is alive and well in other industries.
One way to remove this kind of bias from companies is to remove the opportunity for it to kick in. Stephanie Lampkin, a black female engineer, created Blendoor, an app that removes personal identification markers from job applications to prevent applicants from being turned away on the unspoken basis of racial prejudice. Taking the personal out of the other information could help promote diversity in offices.
Albright’s commentary comes from a different era and a different age of feminism, and it’s a sentiment she’s echoed many times before. Perhaps apps like Blendoor and the according business practices are a good way for women to help each other.