The Impact of Categorical Status, Numeric Representation, and Work Group Prestige on Preference for Demographically Similar Others: A Value Threat Approach

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1100.0565

It is a popular assumption that women and racial minorities who are numeric minorities in high-prestige work groups will advocate for a demographically similar other as a potential work group peer. However, these individuals may face special challenges in fulfilling this role. We discuss how three factors—the general social status associated with a specific demographic characteristic, the demographic composition of the work group, and the differential prestige accorded within organizations to work groups—interact to impact individuals' concerns about being considered valued members of work groups to which they belong (i.e., value threat). Based on an integration of sociological and psychological theories, we argue that value threat adversely affects individuals' propensity to support demographically similar others in selection and promotion processes. We identify three forms that value threat may take in situations involving such personnel decisions: collective threat, favoritism threat, and competitive threat, and we specify factors that may shape the intensity of each form.

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