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Stifled from the start: biased allocation of developmental opportunities and the underrepresentation of lesbian women and gay men in leadership

Jennica R. Webster (Department of Management, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)
Gary A. Adams (Department of Management, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 17 October 2022

Issue publication date: 21 March 2023

283

Abstract

Purpose

The goal of this study was to help explain the underrepresentation of lesbian women and gay men (LG) in senior leadership positions by examining bias in the allocation of developmental opportunities (sponsorship/coaching and challenging work assignments). It further sought to test stigma-by-association as one reason for the biased allocation of developmental opportunities.

Design/methodology/approach

An online experimental vignette study (N = 273) using a 2 (target gender: male vs female) by 2 (sexual orientation: LG vs heterosexual) design was conducted.

Findings

LG workers were less likely to be allocated developmental opportunities than heterosexual workers overall and relative to their same-sex heterosexual counterparts. Further, lesbian women were least likely to be allocated developmental opportunities. These effects also operated indirectly via participants concerns about stigma-by-association.

Originality/value

Sexual orientation and gender identity minority workers remain underrepresented in senior leadership positions and oftentimes despite having better objective qualifications. Research has begun examining bias in leader selection. This study, however, directs attention to the biased allocation of developmental opportunities which make one competitive for senior leadership positions and occur prior to leader selection. In doing so, the authors provide a baseline understanding of an important reason why LG might be underrepresented in leadership positions.

Keywords

Citation

Webster, J.R. and Adams, G.A. (2023), "Stifled from the start: biased allocation of developmental opportunities and the underrepresentation of lesbian women and gay men in leadership", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 300-318. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-05-2022-0120

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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