Gender, Race and Tenure

Few issues initiate more debates, misconceptions, and unsupported opinions than whether women perform as well on jobs as men do. In this article, the review is on research of that issue.

The evidence suggests that the best place to begin is with the recognition that there are few, if any, important differences between men and women that will affect their job performance. There are, for instance, no consistent male female differences in problem solving ability, analytical skills, competitive drive, motivation, sociability, or learning ability. Psychological studies have found that women are more willing to conform to authority and men are more aggressive and more likely than women to have expectations of success, but those differences are minor. Given the significant changes that have taken place in the past 40 years in terms of increasing female participation rates in the workforce and rethinking what constitutes male and female roles, you should operate on the assumption that there is no significant difference in job productivity between men and women.

One issue that does seem to differ between genders, especially when the employee has pre-school age children, is preference for work schedules. Working mothers are more likely to prefer part time work, flexible work schedules and telecommuting in order to accommodate their family responsibilities.

First, on the question of turnover, the evidence indicates no significant differences. Women’s quit rates are similar to those for men. The research on absence, however, consistently indicates that women have higher rates of absenteeism than men do. The most logical explanation of this finding is that the research was conducted in North America, and North American culture has historically placed home and family responsibilities on the woman When a child is ill or someone needs to stay home to wait for the plumber, it has been the woman who has traditionally taken time off from work. However, this research is undoubtedly time bound. The historical role of the woman in caring or children and as secondary bread winner has definitely changed in the past generation, and a large proportion of men nowadays are as interested in day care and the problems associated with child care in general as are women.

Race is a controversial issue. It can be so contentious that it’s tempting to avoid the topic. A complete picture of individual differences in OB, however, would be incomplete without a discussion of race.

What is Race? Before we can discuss how race matters in OB, first we have to reach some consensus about what race is, and that’s not so easily done. Some scholars argue that it’s not productive to discuss race for policy reasons it’s a divisive issue, (for biological reason) a large percentage of us are a mixture of races, or for genetic and anthropological reasons (many anthropologists and evolutionary scientists reject the concept of distinct racial categories).

Most people in the United States identify themselves according to racial group. However, in some countries, like Brazil, people are less likely to define themselves according to distinct racial categories. The Department of Education classifies individuals according to five racial categories: African American, Native American (American Indian/ Alaskan Native) Asian /Pacific Islander, Hispanic and White. We’ll find race as the biological heritage people use to identify themselves. This definition allows each individual to define his or her race. Tiger Woods, for example refuses to place him self into a single racial category emphasizing his multi-ethnic roots.

Race has been studied quite a bit, particularly as it relates to employment outcomes such as personnel selection decisions, performance evaluations pay and workplace discrimination. Doing justice to all of this research isn’t possible here, so let’s summarize a few points.

First in employment settings, there is tendency for individuals to favor colleagues of their own race in performance evaluations, promotion decisions and pay raises. Second there are substantial racial differences in attitude toward affirmative action, with African Americans approving such programs to a greater degree than Whites. Third, African Americans generally fare worse than Whites in employment decisions. For example, African Americans receive lower ratings in employment interviews are paid less, and are promoted less frequently.

The last biographical characteristic we’ll look at is tenure. With the exception of gender and racial differences, few issues are more subject to misconceptions and speculations that the impact of seniority on job performance.

Extensive reviews of the seniority –productivity relationship have been conducted. If we define seniority as time on a particular job, we can say that the most recent evidence demonstrates a positive relationship between seniority and job productivity. So, tenure expressed as work experience appears to be a good predictor of employee productivity.

Tenure is also a potent variable in explaining turnover. The longer a person is in a job, the less likely he or she is to quit. Moreover, consistent with research that suggests that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, evidence indicates that tenure on an employee’s previous job is a powerful predictor of that employee’s future turnover. The evidence indicates that tenure and job satisfaction are positively related.

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