Leading through diversity
The present research investigated the role that a leader’s gender plays in influencing Black Americans’ discrimination-claiming attitudes and behaviors. Using cross-sectional (Study 1) and experimental (Study 2 & Study 3) methods, these studies test a mediational model predicting that Blacks will have more positive discrimination-claiming outcomes when they have a White female leader than White male leader because targets will perceive the female leaders as less racially prejudiced than male leaders. Results from Study 1 revealed that Black employees viewed their female supervisors as less prejudiced towards Blacks than they viewed their male supervisors. Furthermore, Study 1 demonstrated that the less prejudiced that Blacks perceived their supervisors to be, the better discrimination-claiming outcomes they had. However, there was no evidence that perceived leader prejudice mediated the effect of leader gender on discrimination-claiming outcomes. These findings did not replicate in Study 2 where Black participants were randomly assigned to imagine they had a White female or male leader. Specifically, participants viewed the White male and female leader as equally prejudiced and had the same predicted claiming outcomes when imagining claiming discrimination to a White male vs. female leader. Study 3, in which Black participants took part in an organizational simulation with either a White female or male leader, replicated Study 1 in that female leaders were perceived as lower in prejudice than male leaders. Furthermore, Study 3 revealed preliminary evidence that perceived prejudice may mediate the effect of leader gender on perceived costs associated with claiming discrimination. Implications for how leaders can encourage targets to report discrimination, as well as a potential “leadership advantage” for female leaders are discussed.