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PsychologyOur news, events & seminars

Race, Gender and the Dynamics of Social Hierarchy Reversal Seminar

16:00 - 18:00
27 November 2014
University of Southampton Highfield Campus Building 44 (Shackleton Building) Level 1, Room 1087

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Coral Abraham or Allyson Marchi at; .

Event details

Visiting Speaker - Autumn Psychology Seminar Series

Women and ethnic minorities comprise less than 6% of Chief Executive Officers in Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies. Similar underrepresentation can be found in public and non-profit sectors as well. This presentation examines the factors that contribute to the systemic underrepresentation of women and minorities in top leadership roles, and explores the unique challenges that they face when they do attain such positions. Prior research posits that individuals from traditionally low-power groups (e.g., Blacks) who occupy high-power roles (e.g., leaders) create tension and discomfort because they upend traditional and prescribed hierarchical arrangements. Using a social cognition approach, I demonstrate that “disarming mechanisms”— traits, attitudes or behaviours that signal warmth, humility, or deference—can increase power and leader emergence for Blacks by making them appear less aversive and threatening to majority group members. Data from various experiments, using targets as diverse as Fortune 500 CEOs, US Presidents, and NFL Football players, converge in demonstrating that disarming mechanisms benefit Black males but not White males. On the other hand, disarming mechanisms disadvantage White female leaders because they are already “disarmed” by their gender, and thus their challenge is to affirm strength/agency rather than warmth/communality. Finally, I present intersectional data demonstrating the complex ways in which race interacts with gender to produce distinct outcomes for Black women leaders. I conclude by dissecting “disadvantage” into stigma, subordination, and marginalization, and highlighting how they differentially apply to Black men, White women, and Black women, respectively. Implications for the positive impact of diverse leadership on team performance, creativity, and innovation are discussed.

Speaker information

Professor Robert Livingston, University of Sussex. Dr. Robert W. Livingston is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Director for the Centre for Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity (LEAD) at University of Sussex. Prior to joining Sussex, he held faculty positions at the Lecturer and Senior Lecturer/Reader level at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA) and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (USA). He has also held visiting faculty positions at Princeton University and Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Livingston’s research focuses on issues of leadership, authority, diversity, and legitimacy. In particular, his work focuses on the unique challenges of women and minority leaders, and the barriers to and benefits of organisational diversity. He is also interested in topics related to ethics and power, leader selection, social justice, and intergroup discrimination. His research has been published in top-tier, four-star journals such as the: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. His research has also been featured in prominent media outlets including: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, Newsweek, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, ABC News, Expansion, CNN, Yahoo, and MSNBC. He is a member of numerous professional organisations, including the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) and the Academy of Management (AOM), and is the recipient of coveted awards for teaching, research, and publication excellence. Dr. Livingston has also served as a leadership and diversity consultant for numerous Fortune 500 companies, and is active in creating and delivering executive education programmes for high-potential employees and industry leaders around the world. In his free time, he enjoys travel, nature and outdoor activities, cooking, whisky and wine tasting, real estate investment, history, jazz, and international politics. He is fluent in several foreign languages.

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