"It seems that the more individualized process of evaluating each worker on his or her merits — rather than using blanket criteria such as position or tenure — creates awareness and accountability among executives and motivates them to think deeply and creatively about who they should keep during downsizing," said study author Alexandra Kalev, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University.
"This outcome of performance-based downsizing is not only good for managerial diversity, but also for the future of the company because the best performers are kept."
Titled, "How You Downsize Is Who You Downsize: Biased Formalization, Accountability, and Managerial Diversity," the study, which appears in the February issue of the American Sociological Review, focuses on white and black employees and considers data on 327 private U.S-based companies that downsized between 1980 and 2002. The companies, from manufacturing, service, and retail industries, had at least 50 workers prior to layoffs.
"In an average downsizing organization where layoff decisions considered workers' position, the shares of white women and blacks in management declined by almost 25 and 20 percent, respectively," said Kalev. "Downsizing by tenure reduced the share of white women in management by more than 20 percent. Notably, two-thirds of companies in my sample used position or tenure as criteria for layoff decisions."
Making matters worse for white female and black managers is that position-based downsizing, the most harmful type of downsizing for those groups, became increasingly prevalent over the course of the study period, Kalev said. In the early 1980s, downsizing companies made position-based layoffs less than 30 percent of the time. By 2002, however, downsizing companies made position-based layoffs more than 50 percent of the time.
In addition, Kalev found that companies increasingly used external lawyers to guide them through the downsizing process, which also didn't bode well for managerial diversity.
"There is a difference between the effect of an attorney who is part of the company and one that the company hires to handle a special task," Kalev said. "While in house attorneys helped minimize damage to managerial diversity during downsizing, outsourced legal experts did not."
This was true even when position or tenure were used in downsizing decisions. "I was surprised by the finding that an internal legal counsel made such a big difference in the results of downsizing," Kalev said. "I discovered that an in house attorney raised awareness of diversity issues among executives and this motivated them to use tools such as repositioning and retraining to maintain managerial diversity."
In terms of the importance of her research, Kalev said, "This study is a wake-up call. Downsizing is increasingly done in ways that hit managerial diversity the hardest, while downsizing practices that help protect diversity have become less and less common. If these trends continue, women and minorities will become increasingly rare in management jobs."
About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review
The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA's flagship journal.
The research article described above is available by request for members of the media. For a copy of the full study, contact Daniel Fowler, ASA's Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or email@example.com.
Daniel Fowler | EurekAlert!
Researchers simplify tiny structures' construction drip by drip
12.11.2018 | Princeton University, Engineering School
Mandibular movement monitoring may help improve oral sleep apnea devices
06.11.2018 | Elsevier
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Awards Funding