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A recent study co-written by a Duke University associate professor along with input from Northwestern University researchers suggests that dominant Black women in high-ranking positions or roles of leadership do not receive the same backlash as their Black male and White female counterparts, according to the Herald-Sun.

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The study, “Can an Agentic Black Woman Get Ahead?” tallied the results of 84 non-Black persons watching a staged event, where business executives were shown being either critical of an employee or offering words of encouragement.  Afterward, the data and results were collected in an online poll.

The study is awaiting publication in the Psychological Science journal and was co-authored by Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, an associate professor of management and organization at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Rosette spoke with the Herald-Sun of Durham about the study.

“There’s a substantial body of research showing a penalty for women when they display dominant, assertive, angry, commanding or demanding behavior,” Rosette said. “All of those resources presumed that the women under consideration were white but hadn’t necessarily looked at what would happen if the women were of a different race.”

The study contended that because business leadership is typically male and White, Black women in that position would face fewer backlashes because they are not the norm for those roles.  Further, the research proposed the idea that dominant behavior from Black women would have led to more criticism, which the study found to be opposite of the expected.

“Our findings show that Black women are evaluated comparably to white men,” Rosette said. “If that’s the case, why are there not more Black women represented in top leadership positions?”


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