Do Americans Expect Their Business Leaders To Be White?

Do Americans Expect Their Business Leaders To Be White?

Chance writes: The reason many Americans regardless of their ethnic background expect their business leaders to be white is because currently — whites still make up the majority of business leaders in America. On top of that many white business leaders working as CEOs, managers, supervisors, and shift leaders do a good job. The white population is still the majority in America, and many of them attended and graduated form the universities with degrees.

They then go and get jobs, and just by whites being the majority in population they naturally produce more job applicants. At the sametime many whites do make good business leaders. So it’s natural for a non white to go to a job and expect to see a white employer because most of the time the employer is white.

There are many competent non white business leaders also; their numbers are just small because non whites do not make up the majority in the population.

Do Americans Expect Their Business Leaders To White? Study Says Yes

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 by Melissa Lafsky blogs at


Anyone who’s turned on a TV or read a newspaper lately can’t help but notice that race is currently at the forefront of American politics. But the subtle biases operating in the current debate aren’t always obvious, or even visible on the surface. In one example of how embedded racial biases can play out, researchers at Duke, the University of Toronto, and Northwestern business schools found that Americans still overwhelmingly expect business leaders to be white, and rank white leaders as more effective than their minority counterparts.

The study’s data came from 943 undergraduate and graduate students, nearly all of whom had experience working for a company or corporation. They were given fictitious news reports and performance reviews from a fake company and then asked to guess the race of a set of CEOs, project leaders, and other employees described in the materials.

The participants overwhelmingly (up to 72 percent) guessed that the people in power were white, even when the students were told that the company was predominantly African American, Hispanic American, or Asian American. The same “presumption of whiteness” didn’t occur when the subjects assessed the less powerful and accomplished employees.

In experiments where the leader’s race was identified, white leaders were held to be a “better match” with “traditional leader expectations” than were minorities, even when the levels of achievement was the same for both. As a testament to the fact that subconscious bias can cross racial lines, the participants who identified themselves as racial minorities over-guessed whiteness as often as the Caucasian participants.

Prior research has showed that humans develop implicit beliefs about subjective questions like, “What should a leader look like?” and the depth and power of these beliefs in shaping our opinions can’t be overstated (”Not presidential,” anyone?). Identifying and examining these biases, and bringing them to the forefront now, may help us make choices in November that are based on logical reasoning and actual issues, as opposed to subconscious stereotypes.

  1. Arthur Ward


    We as a people are living in a post-Jim Crow, post-lynching, post-you can’t go to the public library time.

    We spend waaay too much energy on what White people are thinking about us, their media biases, their itches, their twitches, etc.

    Where should our heads be?

    1. Education and high literacy. When slaves used to learn how to read under cover? And it was at one time against the law to teach even freed Black people how to read – come on! There is no excuse for Black people to have low literacy or marginal comprehension of the written word. This betrays our ignorance of history and a lack of appreciation for what our grandparents went through to get us here. In this area we have gone backward.

    We need to do the hard work of developing a thick appreciation for education and scholarship in our communities. Yes – we do need more money expended for better facilities, equipment, supplies and teacher compensation. But if an education culture is not developed and reinforced in our communities, it will not matter how much money is being spent – the children will still not learn because it is not a community priority.

    2. Black business. This is an area where we as an ethnic group should be at the top in this country for a whole lot of reasons.” Why would you want to work for the grandchildren of the people that brought our ancestors over here as slaves anyway? Our markets, because we are not “handling our business” are making other groups RICH, and our so-called leaders keep leading us to beg for a “job” instead of leading us to owning our own markets. To drive this home, check out Aron Ravens Black Hair Documentary on You Tube – it clearly shows how we are not “handling our business.”

    3. Development and support of our own media. I could care less what the “mainstream” media is saying. We don’t control that – nor would I want to. I personally support Black media. Other media – when supported counters any mess that comes from the “mainstream.” Instead of doing the harder work of developing our own media, we are marching and boycotting. I think we can do better than this. I mean developing intelligent media. When we do have media, it often strays from the core message and turns into so many promotion rags for Christianity. Media does not start big – like what you are doing. HEY – Anybody with something to say and access to a copy machine, its that basic. If you got something to say, and enough people read it -THATS THE MEDIA.

    4. Black on Black crime. Our community should develop ZERO tolerance of this. If we don’t take care of and protect each other – who will?

    5. Development of critical thinking skills and stepping away from emotionalism. This is why Christian preachers are looked upon as the leaders in our communities, rather than the businesspeople, scholars and professionals like it is in other communities. Whites look at their business and knowledge infrastructure as their community base. Not clergy, who will tell you to “lay your troubles on Jesus” instead of “wipe your tears and get back to work.”

    Talking about race can be productive. But many areas of our black lives that are negatively impacted heavily by race can be changed for the better if we as a people stated working on developing our own potentials and standing up. We are full human beings, we need to start behaving like we are.

    White people (The Wall Street Journal) say that $800 Billion dollars flow through our Black hands every year. Why are we still looking for a job?

  2. Arthur Ward

    Sorry – The first sentence of point two should read: ” This is an area where we as an ethnic group should be at the top in this country for a whole lot of reasons.”

    Chance: I Corrected it for you Ward.

  3. Chance

    I feel also, that in order for these things to happen more and more blacks need to start trusting each other. Blacks fear trusting each other because too many blacks are treacherous. This causes a group to not cooperate with each other. With out the collective trust they fear each other, Chaos, and disharmony reigns.

  4. Arthur Ward

    Good point. In fact, since so many people in our community talk about “moral values,” trust is a moral value that can have concrete and practical outcomes. It is one of the main values that other communities cultivate and in doing so enables them to leap ahead economically and otherwise of other communities. If Black churches want to do something constructive, teaching the practical good of trust is a good place to start.

  5. Interesting. It is rare that you even hear about successful blacks in leadership roles, but as a former subscriber to Emerge magazine, I am certain that they exist. While turning the pages of this magazine, I was often quite surprised. Very inspiring. But of course, if white America let the secret out of the bag more often, black folks might be inspired to be something more than musicians and athletes.

  6. Chance

    That is so true Naysue, people often seek out the worst they can find at times about a group because well that is what is more popular for that group meaning being known for negativity.

    But if you seek successful people from black America you will find them. Seek and you shall find, you find the elements that you sought out.

  7. Arthur Ward

    Nay Sue – it is not the job of white America to do the reporting on our community to us. That is our job! Go to the Chinatown in your city and see how much media they have regarding their own community. If these successful individuals are in our community – why should another community be more aware of these folks than us – and how can they hide from us what is already in our midst?

    It is up to us to develop and patronize our own media – so that we don’t have to always look at our community through another community’s eyes. Especially if we know that throughout our history with whites their media cannot be totally trusted.

  8. Randi

    With all the massive swindling being brought to the fore I wonder how long whites will continue trusting each other. Blacks are no treacherous than any other demographic if you tell the truth about it.

  9. Randi

    Naysue, if you watched the Trumpet Awards there were plenty of Blacks highlighted for their business acumen but many of us are not aware of them. We do have to toot our own horn more. Many whites are also nervous about the prospect of the Obamas raising the profile of Black people and use many disgusting references when speaking of Michelle…like “baby mama” etc to remind people that Blacks are not to be respected and viewed in a positive light.

  10. Chance

    @ Randi,

    I agree that many whites are feeling the sting of many whites CEOs and white business owners who have been arrested for swindling clients (most of these clients more then likely are white people) out of money. They definitely are seeing that their own can be just treacherous.

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