Archive for the ‘Law Office Management’ Category
Most of us have heard of the preference for lighter skin within the African-American community. Some of us have also heard of “colorism” in general—a bias shared by many in our culture. Recently, author Lance Hannon (a sociologist from Villanova University) used data from the 2012 American National Election Study and found that Whites in America tended to see light-skinned Blacks and Hispanics as more intelligent than those with darker skins.
The National Election Study requires interviewers to sit down in a face-to-face survey with respondents (who disclose their income and education level and take a brief vocabulary test). Hannon identified 223 Black or Hispanic respondents who were interviewed by White survey takers. The White interviewers were asked to list each individual respondent’s skin tone on a 10 point scale as well as to estimate the respondent’s intelligence on a 5-point scale ranging from “very low” to “very high”.
What he found is disturbingly consistent: “white observers will look at two identically qualified minorities and assess the lighter skinned one as more intelligent”. Other factors about the respondent simply did not seem to matter.
Specifically, regardless of the respondent’s age group, gender, income, or their vocabulary test score, those respondents the interviewer’s described as “lighter” in skin tone were seen as “more intelligent”.
Educational level of the respondent did predict the interviewer’s assessment of their intelligence, but not as strongly as the respondent’s skin tone predicted the interviewer’s estimate of their intelligence.
If this finding is supported by follow-up studies (which appears likely), it has far-reaching implications for our society. When skin tone has a larger role in estimating intellect than educational level—the tendency to equate lighter skin with higher intelligence is obviously deeply entrenched.
From a litigation advocacy perspective (and an inclusive workplace perspective), this research informs us on biases we may assume without question.
When assessing jurors for your specific case, pay more attention to education and curiosity than to skin tone in estimating intelligence.
Do the same in the workplace. When you are assessing workplace performance, set skin tone (and gender, and age, and ethnicity) aside. Focus instead on concrete behavioral indicators that deserve reward.
Just as we have “learned” to have biases against race and color, we need to “unlearn” those biases and make ourselves consciously aware of them—whether it is in the courtroom or the workplace.
Hannon, L. (2015). White Colorism Social Currents, 2 (1), 13-21 DOI: 10.1177/2329496514558628
We are again honored by our inclusion in the ABA Blawg 100 list for 2014. If you value this blog, please take a moment to vote for us here in the Litigation Category. Voting closes on December 19, 2014. Doug and Rita
Like that cranberry sauce* shoved to the back of the refrigerator, this post contains small “leftover” treasures to which we do not want to devote an entire post but which we would like to share with you.
Tattoos, Piercings and the Workplace
You may have noticed we have quite a collection of posts about tattoos here at The Jury Room. We’ve said it is because we may have some tattooed 20-something kids but it is also perhaps because we are very curious about anything that stirs up bias or strong feelings in the observer. While tattoos may seem like yesterday’s news, in some people they still arouse strong reactions. And apparently in some corporations as well. A recent post at The Act of Violence identifies various corporate policies against tattoos and body piercings: Starbucks, for example, allows no tattoos that show (and now no “gem-encrusted rings or diamond-heavy wedding rings”). Other companies ask that tattoos not carry “racist, anti-religious, demeaning, profane, or hostile” messages. Still others apparently have a “percentage policy” wherein they say you may not have more than 30% of your exposed skin showing visible tattoos! Piercings, embedded jewelry, branding, scarring, and other body modifications are undoubtedly giving HR personnel across the country heartburn as they figure out how to respond to individual employees. This is an interesting post well worth visiting.
Don’t send that cover letter!
Speaking of the workplace, if you are on the job market, don’t just get in touch with your own pain–get in touch with the pain of the hiring manager. Here’s a Forbes piece on what they call human-voiced resumes. It’s a way of communicating to that hiring manager that you not only understand, but that you would be terrific to work with, rather than using a cover letter and making the mistake of leading with your “passion”.
“Meanies” online get more attention
So if what you want is attention, just be mean. Snarky. Sarcastic. People will think you are smarter and you will get re-tweeted a lot when you are mean (at least according to this Wired article). It’s called the “negativity bias” and this is how Wired describes it: “when we seek to impress someone with our massive gray matter, we spout sour and negative opinions”. So, when you see people being mean online, just know they are trying to impress you with how smart they are.
Do I want to vote for brains or potential lifespan?
Speaking of how smart people are, let’s take a look at how people decide who to vote for when faced with several political candidates. You guessed it, here’s a study (presented in a podcast that hit boingboing.net) saying when choosing whom to vote for, people prefer candidates who look healthy over those who seem smart. Here’s a website with an example of what, in this study, constituted a healthier looking person versus an intelligent looking person.
Would that be a homonym, homograph, or homophone?
Many people have trouble with words that sound alike but mean different things. You may have noticed that popular word processors often share that trouble. Here’s a terrific infographic that may even help you figure out the difference between “affect” and “effect”. If you know the difference you do not have to creatively use “impact” in place of either “affect” or “effect”.
*And as for that leftover cranberry sauce, try it on a grilled cheese sandwich with a hearty bread the sauce will not penetrate.
Or if you already are a mother, do not have any more children. On the other hand, if you are a man, have as many children as you would like. And preferably with a woman who doesn’t mind taking a dramatic payroll hit at work. With children (as a man) you get an average 11.6% bump in your salary according to this report. The author opines that fatherhood “is a valued characteristic of employers, signaling perhaps greater work commitment, stability, and deservingness”.
But we must remind you that this applies only if you are a man who is a father. And if you are a woman? According to today’s research report, with every additional child, you lose another 4% in income. So it isn’t just gender that reduces your salary. It’s having children as well. And yes. It is an article written in 2014. Don’t shoot the messenger here, it isn’t our research or our vision of a “just world”.
“For men, it’s just the status of being a father that raises their wages. For women, each additional child she has makes the penalty worse.”
Becoming a mother means women will earn less over their lifetimes while fathers earn more. This is but a small part of the disconcerting, disturbing, and depressing findings in a new report from the Third Way think tank. You may wonder what happened to the 2010 ABC World News report of women now earning 8% more than men. Well, that report only referred to young (early career) and childless women–not women with children.
Michelle Budig, the author of this report, calls what happens to women the “life cycle effect”. She points out the small gender gap in pay for 20-somethings (women earn about 96 cents on the dollar compared to men). That small gender salary gap grows as you hit 30-something and then 40-something though, and Budig thinks it is because of developmental milestones like marriage and children.
“Things happen in people’s lives like marriage and children, that trigger new behaviors and differential treatment in the workplace” for men and women.
Specifically, she says, the period between age 35 and age 44 is when we generally see the largest growth in salaries. This is also the time when many college-educated women stop delaying childbearing and are actively involved in caring for young children.
A caveat to this news comes if you are at the top of the salary distribution. If you are a man you get an even larger fatherhood bonus. And if you are a woman, while you don’t get a bigger bonus for being at the top of the income distribution, there is no motherhood penalty at all.
Another caveat also relates to privilege. White fathers receive larger fatherhood bonuses that Latinos or African-American men. In fact, African-American men have the lowest fatherhood bonus of any racial/ethnic group.
Budig suggests stereotypes of what makes a “good mother”, a “good father” and a “good worker” are likely at play here. If we believe that mothers should be focused on caring for children over workplace/career ambitions, they “will be suspect on the job and even criticized if viewed as overly focusing on work”. The opposite is apparently true for fathers who are likely perceived as trying hard to be a “good provider”.
From a workplace perspective, this report is a pointed reminder of the importance of identifying (and using) concrete, behavioral indicators for salary increases. That is one way to avoid making salary decisions based on stereotypes that cast either a halo effect (on fathers) or the opposite (on mothers). Creating a professional environment that welcomes both men and women means having specific indicators of “success” that apply equally to all employees, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, or parenthood status.
Budig, M. 2014 The fatherhood bonus and the motherhood penalty: Parenthood and the gender gap in pay. Third Way.
We often make assumptions when discussing diversity that we all perceive a group’s diversity in the same way. Today’s research shows that simply isn’t so. That is, you and I (depending on our racial in-group) can look at the same group and you might say it is diverse while I say it is not. What makes the difference? It’s an intriguing question.
These researchers discuss how diversity means different things to different people and yet, we often discuss diversity as though “everyone ought to know it when they see it”. In other words, we often conceptualize ‘diversity’ as objective rather than as something that will vary across individuals and situations. Their belief is that racial minorities look at groups and assess whether there is anyone else in the group from their own in-group since they believe that is the best predictor of whether they would be treated fairly by the group. The researchers review the lengthy history of research and polling results showing varying perceptions of race relations by Whites and minority group members. They then focus on differences in how groups are perceived (in terms of diversity) by African-Americans and by Asian Americans.
African-Americans, say the researchers are often lower status, have more negative stereotypes and report more discrimination than do other minority groups.
Asian Americans, on the other hand, are often granted higher status and report lower levels of discrimination than other minority groups. (We would point out that just because Asian Americans report less discrimination doesn’t mean they do not experience discrimination.)
The researchers completed three separate studies to see if there were differences between African-American and Asian Americans in terms of the perception of group diversity.
Study 1 included 1,899 American (391 Asian American, 620 African-American and 888 non-Hispanic White) members of a polling panel maintained by GfK. Participants read a short statement about a large corporation forming a management team for a new project and saw a photograph of the 6 managers. The racial composition of the management team was manipulated so there were 4 conditions: the Asian representation condition had 2 Asian-Americans and 4 White managers; the African-American representation condition had 2 African-American managers and 4 White managers; the Asian + African-American condition pictured 1 Asian American, 1 African-American and 4 White managers, and the final group was composed of a WhiteOnly condition that pictured 6 White team members. Participants were asked how diverse they thought the group pictured was.
Asian Americans thought the Asian representation group more diverse than the African-American representation group. African-American participants thought the African-American representation group was more diverse than the Asian representation group. This relationship was stronger for African-American participants than for Asian American participants.
Asian-Americans saw more diversity in the Asian + African-American representation than did African-American participants. The researchers say this means Asian-Americans and African-Americans responded differently to racial minority “out-group representation”.
Study 2 included 1,080 Americans recruited by Qualtrics of which 471 were Asian American and 574 were Black. The group was 57.8% female and ranged in age from 18 to 72 years with an average age of 34 years. 13% had graduate degrees, 32% had bachelor’s degrees, 39% had some college coursework completed and 15% had completed high school or earned a GED. Some participants in this study read that a research group found prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans had increased in recent years especially in terms of employment. Others read the same article but the words “Asian Americans” replaced “African Americans”. Then they looked at either the Asian representation, African-American representation, or Asian + African-American representation photos used in the first study and rated how diverse they thought the group pictured was.
Both Asian American and African-American participants saw the teams as more diverse when it included members of their racial in-group compared to when it included members of another racial minority group. (The effect was once again stronger for African-American participants.)
The need for in-group representation to see a group as diverse was stronger for Asian-Americans who read about higher levels of discrimination against their group in the workplace. For African-American participants, however, the level of in-group representation was equally important whether they had read about higher levels of discrimination against their group or not. The researchers thought this indicated discrimination was more chronically salient for African-American participants than for Asian American participants.
Study 3 included 380 upper-level undergraduate business majors (210 non-Hispanic White and 126 Asian American). Participants read that a large company had formed a new management team and saw headshots of eight people in business attire. Altogether, there were four racial compositions for the management team: Asian Majority (5 Asian and 3 White team members), African-American Majority (5 African-American and 3 White team members), Asian + African-American diversity condition (2 Asian, 3 African-American and 3 White team members), and White Only (8 White team members). Again they were asked to rate the diversity of the team and also asked to indicate how likely they thought the team was to be able to manage discrimination issues.
Asian American participants saw each team as differently diverse. They saw the Asian + African-American team as most diverse, then Asian Majority, then African-American Majority, and finally, White Only.
White participants saw the Asian + African-American condition as most diverse and the White Only condition as least diverse but thought the Asian Majority and African-American Majority conditions were the same in terms of diversity.
This research highlights the complexity of “diversity” and the importance of assessing perceptions of different racial groups when it comes to diversity. Overall, say the researchers, African-Americans are more chronically attuned to issues about race than are Asian-Americans. Therefore, how diverse a group is seen as being depends on how many African-Americans are represented.
There are many more details to be found in this complex and nuanced work. It’s also interesting to consider in light of the research on race and death penalty juries. Perhaps part of the reason African-Americans are so sensitive to whether a group will treat them fairly is because so often they are not treated fairly. We write a lot about bias. In this line of work, we see a lot of it. This particular research helps us understand some of the nuances more fully.
Bauman CW, Trawalter S, & Unzueta MM (2014). Diverse According to Whom? Racial Group Membership and Concerns about Discrimination Shape Diversity Judgments. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin PMID: 25106545
The American Bar Association is seeking nominations until August 8, 2014 to help it decide on the Top 100 law blogs (“Blawgs”). We have been in the ABA Top 100 for the past 4 years and would like to make it 5! If you like this blog, please nominate us (it’s fast and free) here. THANKS! Doug and Rita
Most of us have seen the information that a sedentary lifestyle is dangerous for our physical well-being. Today’s researchers wondered if standing (rather than sitting) for group brainstorming sessions would result in more effective and positive group dynamics and outcome.
They recruited 214 undergraduate students to participate in 3-5 person group-brainstorming tasks. Each group was asked to develop ideas for a university recruitment video which they recorded at the end of their sessions. Each group was filmed as they completed the brainstorming project in a room with a table, whiteboard and notepads. Half of the groups had five chairs around the table and the other half had no chairs. Each participant was given a wristband which measured their level of “physiological arousal” (i.e., how much their skin sweated during the task).
The researchers found the groups without chairs had higher arousal (i.e., they did more sweating) than the groups with chairs.
The groups without chairs were also less possessive of the ideas they individually generated. The researchers called this “reduced territoriality”. The researchers think this might have been due to the closer physical proximity of the groups who had no chairs. They shared the physical space and the researchers think perhaps they shared the intellectual product as well.
The groups without chairs also generated more ideas that were then modified through combining them with the ideas of other group members or improved upon by others. The researchers call this “idea elaboration”.
So in all, it looks like the groups without chairs performed better although they were sweatier. And indeed, the researchers say the group process was better. All groups designed and produced the university recruitment videos as an outcome measure, but there were no differences in the videos produced by groups with chairs and the groups without chairs.
“That is, videos produced by groups working in a room with no chairs were rated by judges as no more polished or creative, than videos produced by groups working in a room with chairs.”
In other words, you might enjoy the process more and standing up is physically better for you, but the resulting product will not be improved. Nonetheless, the authors recommend workplace leaders may want to get rid of chairs and give employees an open space to make collaboration easier.
Obviously, you won’t likely be inclined to ask jurors to stand as they deliberate (and most jury rooms tend to be on the crowded side). However, in your office, “stand-up meetings” or brainstorming sessions might improve both morale and collaboration skills. This research would say you won’t get a better product because of standing, but it might be more fun and create a more effective team.
Knight, AP, & Baer, M. (2014). Get up, Stand up: The effects of a non-sedentary workspace on information elaboration and group performance. Social Psychological and Personality Science.