Undermining Diversity: Favoritism Threat and Its Effect on Advocacy for Similar Others

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Abstract

Women and minorities are often viewed as advocates for the recruitment and retention of similar others. This assumes that women and minorities do not face any barriers to taking on the role of “diversity advocate.” We believe this assumption is flawed. In 2 experiments and a qualitative study, we focus on favoritism threat as 1 such barrier. Favoritism threat takes place when evaluators fear their support for a similar other will be seen as an unfair positive bias. Study 1 demonstrates that distinctive individuals, regardless of gender, perceive more favoritism threat than do nondistinctive individuals. Study 2 shows that only low-status distinctive individuals (women in the numeric minority) show outgroup favoritism by evaluating an outgroup applicant higher than an equally qualified ingroup applicant on a subjective indicator. Study 3 finds that a majority of racially distinctive individuals spontaneously identify favoritism threat as a concern when contemplating advocating for a demographically similar other, even when told that the other is qualified.

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