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Race differences in job performance and career success.

Although blacks have gained entry to the information systems (IS) field and various managerial positions, they continue to experience more restricted career advancement prospects than whites. They have found it difficult to advance professionally and managerially within their organizations. Perhaps, as the management literature suggests, this is because minorities may experience considerable discrimination in their jobs that lowers their performance and ultimately impedes their career advancement [10].

Despite a decade of advances, blacks still struggle to reach the top managerial ranks of IS. It was reported that while there are professional jobs for minorities, positions in upper management still remain limited for blacks. It has been suggested that blacks encounter a glass ceiling that prevents them from reaching the top levels of IS and non-IS management positions. Government statistics support the assertion that blacks and women are still underrepresented in positions of power and responsibility. The commission's figures show that managers were 92% white and 8% minority in 1988 - the identical percentage found in 1980 and 1985. This indicates that progress for minorities at the higher end of the career ladder has been at a standstill for nearly a decade.

One potential determinant of the relatively slow advancement rates of blacks is the presence of bias in job performance ratings. It was reported that a supervisor's assessment of a subordinate's job performance plays such a prominent role in forming opinions about the subordinate's advancement prospects [22], systematic biases in job performance evaluations can place blacks at a distinct disadvantage when being considered for promotions and produce bias in promotion decisions over time. It was noted that minorities are evaluated more negatively than their actual performance warrants and there is an evaluation bias against minorities [11]. The present study examines the job performance evaluations of blacks and whites.

In addition to the impact of job performance of subordinates' future prospects, the attributions that supervisors invoke to explain their subordinates' performance may also play a role in forming opinions regarding the subordinates' likelihood of future advancement. It was reported that race differences in advancement opportunities can be explained by the attributions made by supervisors. Additionally, it is suggested that while supervisors may also attribute the good performance of whites to ability and talents, they are more likely to attribute the good performance of blacks to good luck or extraordinary effort. It was found that personal characteristics (e.g., gender, race) of the supervisor or the subordinate may influence supervisory attributions for the performance level attained [14]. These attributes should be examined in the context of employees' job performance, career advancement prospects, and career outcome variables. The present study examines the impact of individuals' race on supervisors' performance attributions.

Understanding and eliminating any barriers to advancement for various subgroups in the workplace should be of increasing concern to the IS field as a whole. This is not only because of the IS field's increased interest in managing human resources [17], and rising personnel costs relative to hardware costs, but even more importantly, because of the significant demographic changes in the workforce projected by the year 2000. The Hudson Institute, in its report for the U.S. Department of Labor [9], estimates that by the end of the next decade, only 15% of new job entrants will be U.S. born white males, while 20% will be U.S. born non-whites, 42% will be U.S. born white females and 23% will be foreign born immigrants. Further, the nature of jobs is expected to change, with the technological jobs becoming one of the fastest growing sectors. These changes make it imperative that we understand how to manage diversity and differences in the workforce, particularly in the technology sector.

The purpose of this study was to examine race differences in job performance and career outcomes. In particular, we sought to determine whether:

* black employees were assessed using different criteria than white employees;

* supervisors attribute the job performance of blacks to different causal factors than the performance of whites; and

* race differences affect career advancement prospects and satisfaction.

Race Differences

Figure 1 presents the conceptual model examined in this study. The model, which builds on the work of Green and Mitchell [3], Ilgen and Youtz [6], and Pazy [19], posits that race influences career success through its effects on job performance of black and white IS employees. In other words, job performance evaluations and attributions mediate the relationship between race and career success. We also posit that job performance evaluations influence attributions. In the model we also propose that job performance evaluations mediate the impact of race on performance attributions.

The model depicted in Figure 1 is similar in some respects to the model of organizational experiences and career success proposed and tested by Igbaria and Wormley [5], and there is some overlap in the variables included in the two studies. However, the central foci of the two models differ considerably. The model tested by Igbaria and Wormley in 1992 examined the causal linkages of gender, race, organizational experiences, job performance ratings, advancement prospects, satisfaction and commitment, and the role of organizational experiences in mediating these relationships. The model proposed in the current study explicitly emphasizes the importance of both job performance ratings and attributions in mediating the relationship between race and career success.

The central objective of the current study is to examine the effect of race on performance ratings and attributions as well as on career success, and to examine the mediating role of performance ratings and attributions on the relationship of race with career success. Moreover, the present study goes beyond the Igbaria and Wormley model in that it includes job performance attributions which potentially influence the three indicators of career success. We also included multiple indicators of career advancement opportunities (advancement prospects, promotability and career plateau status). The specific variables included in the model, the rationale for their selection, and for the hypothesized linkages among them are discussed in this article.

Two groups of indicators of career success were identified: the external (objective) and internal (subjective) indicators [21]. While job performance and advancement prospects represent the external career success outcomes, career satisfaction represents the internal career success outcomes. The present study examined two indicators of job performance: job performance valuations, which represent supervisory ratings of the employee's job performance; and job performance attributions, which represent the supervisor's attributions of the causes of the employee's job performance.

The first linkage shown in Figure 1 is between race and job performance. In their study of race differences in job performance, Kraiger and Ford [11] found that black employees often receive lower ratings of job performance than white employees, especially when the raters are white. Similarly, Morrison and Von Glinow [16], who reviewed the factors that limit the advancement of women and minorities toward top management in organizations, reported that women and minorities often receive lower ratings of job performance than men. It is suggested that it is possible the predominantly white male supervisors in organizations used race or gender rather than work-related cues in assessing individuals' job performance. There is a tendency for raters to give higher ratings to same race or gender ratees.

The self-categorization theory also supports the notion that supervisors favor individuals who belong to their group over outgroup members [24]. Additionally, the social identity theory also suggests that "people are motivated to establish positively valued distinctiveness for groups with which they identify from relevant outgroups," [p. 30]. It is suggested that information selection and use, judgment processes, race-role stereotypes, social isolation, and work-family conflict can affect management's treatment of blacks and create potential sources for bias in job performance evaluations. Some portions of the race differences in rated job performance may be attributed to rater bias, other portions of the race differences may result from differences in actual job performance. Therefore, Hypothesis 1 predicts that, on average, blacks receive lower ratings on job performance evaluations than whites.

Figure 1 indicates a relationship between an employee's race and the extent to which the supervisor attributes the employee's performance to internal causes. Weiner, et al. [25] found that people generally attribute performance on a task to one or more of the following causes: ability, effort, the difficulty of the task and luck. Two dimensions are often used to characterize causal attributions. An attribution's locus of control reflects the distinction between causes that are internal (ability, effort) and external (task difficulty and luck) to the person. An attribution's stability distinguishes relatively enduring (ability, task difficulty) and relatively temporary (effort, luck) causes of behavior. Moreover, ability and task difficulty are viewed as stable factors that are likely to continue in the future, whereas effort and luck are considered unstable and temporary determinants of performance. The present study focuses on all the causes of supervisors' attributions in order to understand whether or not the attributions made by supervisors for black and white employees are the same.

Ilgen and Youtz [6] have suggested that supervisors attribute minority members' effective performance to good luck or the ease of the task (external causes), whereas supervisors attribute nonminorities' effective performance to ability, which is an internal factor. It is suggested that psychological closeness between supervisor and subordinate, personal characteristics (e.g., gender, race) of the supervisor or the subordinate, and the supervisor's prior expectations regarding the subordinate's performance have an impact on supervisory attributions for the performance level attained [3]. They suggested that supervisors who belong to the same group as some of their subordinates (ingroup) may feel psychologically closer to them and are more likely to attribute their success to ability and skills.

It is also suggested that external attributions are likely to be used to explain performance that deviates from expectations. Performance that is inconsistent with observers' expectations is unlikely to be attributed to an actor's ability and instead is attributed to luck and other external factors. If supervisors expect black subordinates to perform poorly on the job, then high levels of performance may be attributed to external causes because they represent deviations from expectations. Therefore, Hypothesis 2 predicts that effective performance of black IS employees is less likely to be attributed to internal causes (ability, effort) than the comparable performance of white IS employees.

Figure 1 also proposes that the level of rated job performance is related to the supervisor's performance attributions. There is some evidence that persons who perform extremely well on a task are most likely to attribute their own performance to ability - an internal and stable factor - and are least likely to attribute their performance to luck, which is external and unstable [25]. Observers (such as supervisors) may also use the level of task performance as a cue to explain the reason behind the performance. Assuming that similar processes are used when making attributions about oneself and others, it is suggested that a supervisor's attributions regarding an individual's job performance are related to the level of performance that is observed. Therefore, Hypothesis 3 predicts that the rating of an IS employee's job performance is related to supervisory attributions to efforts and skills.

The widespread perception of a glass ceiling that prevents blacks from reaching upper levels of management strongly implies that black employees face more restricted advancement opportunities than white employees. In fact, Brown and Ford [1] found that black MBAs received smaller salary increases and fewer promotions than a comparison sample of white MBAs. It is not surprising that black employees are somewhat pessimistic about their opportunities for advancement [2, 18]. Jones [10] reported that 84% of the black MBAs in his study thought that considerations of race had a negative impact on performance ratings, pay, assignments, and promotions. Similarly, Irons and Moore [7] found that 8 out of 10 black managers in their sample of bank personnel felt their chances for promotion were not as good as those of their white peers. Hypothesis 4 predicts that, on average, blacks face more restricted advancement opportunities than whites.

The extensive research of race differences in career satisfaction has produced inconsistent results. Although some studies have reported whites to be more satisfied with their careers than blacks, other studies have found blacks to be more satisfied than whites. Since none of these studies have focused exclusively on both professional managerial samples, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the role of race on individuals' career satisfaction.

Although the professional literature suggests that blacks experience high levels of frustration and dissatisfaction with their careers [10], virtually no empirical research has been conducted on race differences in career satisfaction. Fernandez's [2] finding that blacks were less satisfied with their career progress then whites suggests that this relationship is in need of additional scrutiny. Moreover, the professional literature implies that blacks, frustrated with stalled careers, are likely to leave their organizations to pursue less constraining, entrepreneurial activities elsewhere. Hypothesis 4 explored the impact of race on individuals' career satisfaction.

Furthermore, it is also possible that race differences in career advancement prospects may be a function of race discrimination, as well as differential job performance evaluations and attributions. It is acknowledged that an employee who performs poorly has little chance for promotion. In addition, the attributions a supervisor uses to explain a subordinate's performance can affect the supervisor's expectations regarding the subordinate's future performance and may, therefore, influence the supervisor's assessment of the subordinate's prospects for advancement within the organization.

It is also possible that supervisors who attribute subordinates' performance to high levels of ability - an internal, stable factor - tend to view the subordinate as deserving of a promotion, since ability should provide the greatest predictability of performance over time and enhance the view that a subordinate is capable of advancement to more responsible positions [19]. Pazy found that a supervisor who attributed a subordinate's performance to a high level of ability (a stable, internal factor) was more likely to believe the subordinate should be rewarded with a promotion.

It is also possible that employees whose performance has been attributed to external or unstable causes have already experienced restricted advancement opportunities within the organization and have plateaued at lower levels in their career. Additionally, Pazy found that employees who are thought to be capable are most likely to be seen as deserving of a promotion.

Therefore, this study examined the possibility that race differences in career advancement prospects may be a function of differential job performance evaluations and attributions. Hypothesis 5 predicts that race differences in career advancement prospects remain significant even after controlling for job performance. It is predicted that IS employees whose supervisors attribute their performance to internal causes receive more favorable assessments of their advancement prospects and are less likely to have plateaued than IS employees whose supervisors attribute their performance to external factors.

In summary, prior research suggests that blacks tend to receive relatively low job performance ratings, have restricted advancement opportunities, and experience relatively low levels of satisfaction. We examined the relationships between race and performance ratings and attributions and career success to determine whether attributions and job performance ratings explain race differences in career success. Specifically, the present study contributes to the IS literature in a number of respects. First, this study compares the job performance attributions of black and white IS employees, a comparison that does not seem to have been examined in prior research. Second, unlike prior research that examined job performance among non-IS employees and focused on job performance ratings, the present research examines the effect of race on job performance evaluation ratings and attributions among IS employees. Third, the present study examines the impact of job performance, both ratings and attributions, on career advancement prospects. Finally, the present study examines these phenomena in an organizational setting.


Procedure and Sample

The data used in this study was gathered as part of a wide-ranging survey of the career experiences of black and white professionals and managers. Portions of the data used in this study were examined previously in [4] and Igbaria and Wormley [5]. The focus of these studies was on assessing the network of variables that explain race and gender differences. In contrast, the current study sought to assess the role job performance attributions and the relationship with job performance ratings and career success. Participants in the larger study were employees of three companies with extensive operations in the eastern portion of the U.S., in the communications, banking and electronics industries.

Within each company, all black employees were identified and matched as closely as possible with a white employee, on the basis of age, gender, organizational tenure, job function and organizational level, to assure that any observed race differences in the variables under investigation could not be attributed to differences in the background characteristics of the black and white managers and professionals. A Career Development Survey was distributed to each employee selected to participate in the study. In addition, the supervisor of each individual selected received a separate Supervisor Survey, cover letter, and return envelope. Identical code numbers were affixed to the two surveys, so that subordinates' and supervisors' responses could be matched. Supervisors may have received multiple copies of the supervisor survey, one for each of their subordinates included in the study.

Although the sample from the larger study consisted of 828 employees and their supervisors (representing a 50.8% response rate from 2 companies and a 52% response rate from the communications company), the sample of IS employees for this study included 138 employees who held professional and managerial positions in the IS field from just one company, which employed considerably more IS employees than the other two participating companies. Only 10 IS employees were identified in the banking firm and 5 IS employees were identified in the electronics company. Given the dominant representation of IS employees from the communications company, we eliminated the respondents from the banking and electronics companies so that conclusions regarding differences between black and white IS employees would not be confounded by differences in the companies, with regard to industry, mission, size, and structure.

Characteristics of the Sample

Of these 138 employees, 69 (50%) were black and 69 (50%) were white. Their mean age was 37.30 years (S.D. = 7.13), and 72 (52%) of the employees were women. Tenure in the organization averaged 14.75 years (S.D. = 7.16). Length of tenure in the current job averaged 4.10 years (S.D. = 2.54). Approximately 80% of the sample had attended college and 28% of the participants were college graduates.

A wide variety of job functions within IS was represented in the sample. The researchers examined employee job titles as well as additional information obtained from the company to classify employees' positions as either managerial or professional. Positions were classified as managerial (coded 2) when the job title suggested managerial, supervisory or coordinating responsibility, or when the hierarchical level indicated manager status. Among IS personnel, for example, the managerial employees held such positions as project leaders, senior programmers/analysts, shift supervisors, senior applications or senior systems programmers, and IS managers. Positions were classified professional in nature (coded 1) when the job title suggested technical responsibilities, and the hierarchical level indicated professional status. The IS professionals included systems analysts and designers, applications programmers, analysts, and systems programmers.

Eighty-two (59%) of the IS participants held managerial positions, and the remaining 56 participants held professional positions without supervisory responsibilities. Among the IS employees who held managerial positions, 12 were project leaders; 14 were senior programmers and analysts; 15 were senior computer operators, shift supervisors, or supervisors of production and I/O control; 20 were lead and senior applications programmers, senior system programmers, or database administrators; and the remaining 21 were in charge of different administrative staff, such as training. Among the professionals without supervisory responsibilities, 33 were systems analysts and designers, 5 were programmers and 18 were analysts and systems programmers.

As indicated earlier, the sampling procedure was designed to produce groups of blacks and whites comparable in age, organizational tenure, job function and organizational level. The success of the sampling procedure is reflected in the insignificant differences between blacks and whites in age, education, organizational tenure, job tenure, marital status, and organization level, and by the similarity of the jobs (all were in IS) held by the black and white employees. Further analyses indicated that blacks and whites did not differ in the level of education attained or in the managerial versus nonmanagerial nature of their position within IS. The only background variable on which blacks and whites differed significantly was gender ([X.sup.2] = 3.71, p [less than] .05); a greater number of whites were women (40 vs. 29, respectively).

Note that in this study, 93.9% were evaluated by white raters, and 75.4% of IS managers and professionals were evaluated by male raters. An examination of rater bias among male and female supervisors reveals no evidence of cross-gender bias in supervisory ratings of job performance and career advancement prospects. The number of blacks in supervisory roles is too small to examine cross-race bias in supervisory ratings.


Job Performance: Two indicators of job performance were used: job performance rating and job performance attributions. Employees' job performance ratings were assessed with a performance rating scale [23], included on the Supervisor Survey. Supervisors rated the employee (on a seven-point scale with anchors of unsatisfactory and excellent) on such characteristics as ability, cooperation, job knowledge and quality of work. Greenhaus et al. [4] reported the re-suits of a factor analysis on the total sample that produced two interpretable factors, one tapping the relationship component of performance (e.g., loyalty, attitude, cooperation, punctuality, attendance), and the other assessing the task component of performance (e.g., ability, job knowledge, creativity, judgment, accuracy).

Our analysis also shows a factor analysis (with varimax rotation) produced two factors similar to Greenhaus, et al., with eigenvalues of [greater than or equal to] 1.0 that accounted for 65.9% of the variance. We averaged the responses to the 12 items to produce the relationship component of job performance (alpha = .94). The remaining 11 items were averaged to create a scale tapping the task component of job performance (alpha = .95). Additionally, since a second-order factor analysis on the IS employees revealed that one global performance factor explained 91.5% of the variance, the ratings on the entire set of 23 items were averaged to produce a total job performance scale (alpha = .97). We examined the overall job performance evaluations.

Performance attribution: Since supervisor's attributions represent perceived causes of task performance, their measurement requires the specification of a performance level (normally successful or unsuccessful) as a reference point. Therefore, after completing the 23-item performance rating scale, supervisors indicated whether the employee's overall performance was satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Those supervisors who indicated the employee's performance was satisfactory were directed to the following question: "To what extent do each of the following factors contribute to the individual's SATISFACTORY performance?" The five attributions that followed were: "possesses the appropriate skills," "works very hard," "is lucky," "job is very easy," and "receives a lot of help."

The supervisor rated the importance of each factor on a 5-point scale with anchors of "not a factor" and "a significant factor." (Supervisors who indicated the employee's performance was unsatisfactory were presented with a parallel set of five failure attributions, e.g., "does not work very hard"). However, since this study's focus was on attributions regarding satisfactory performance, and the performance of 126 of the 138 employees (91.3 percent) was judged to be satisfactory, the attributions for unsatisfactory performance were not analyzed.

It is noted that employees whose performance was judged to be satisfactory had substantially higher overall job performance ratings than employees whose performance was judged to be unsatisfactory. We found the average job performance evaluation ratings among the satisfactory group are greater than among the unsatisfactory group (Average = 3.50 and 5.60, F = 20.12, p [less than or equal to] .001, for satisfactory and unsatisfactory groups, respectively). Thus, when indicating that an employee's performance was satisfactory, supervisors did not appear to be focusing on some narrow, barely acceptable level of performance.

Career Success

Advancement opportunities: First, perceived career advancement was measured by asking supervisors to express their agreement or disagreement with two items concerning future advancement opportunities with reference to the employee in question (e.g., "The employee has advanced as far in the company as he/she is likely to advance," "The employee's future opportunities for advancement at this company are greater than those of his/her peers here."). Responses to the two items (each made on a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strong agree) were averaged (alpha = .74).

In addition, a promotability assessment was made by the supervisor through a response to the following item on the Supervisor Survey: "How would you rate the individual's chances for promotion to a higher position sometime during his or her career with the company?" Responses to this item were made on a four-point scale, with the following anchors: high likelihood; moderate likelihood; low likelihood; and no likelihood. Since the distribution of the responses on this variable displayed considerable skewness (-.36), it was recoded into a three-level variable, where 3 = high likelihood; 2 = moderate likelihood, and 1 = low or no likelihood. The recoding procedure substantially reduced the skewness (-.03). The third measure of employee's advancement opportunities was a classification of the employee's career plateau status.

The measure of employees' career plateau status was based on tenure in their current job. Following Greenhaus et al. [4], employees were considered plateaued (coded 2) if their tenure in their current job was seven years or more and were considered nonplateaued (coded 1) if their tenure in their current job was less than [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] seven years. Although job tenure does not directly assess plateau status, it appears reasonable to assume that lengthy tenure in one position is an indicator of limited prospects for upward mobility.

Satisfaction: Career satisfaction was measured with four items developed expressly for the larger study [4]. Individuals were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement with each statement on a five-point scale, ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree. The four items were averaged to create a career satisfaction score (alpha = .87).

Data Analyses

The primary aim of this study was to determine similarities and differences between blacks and whites on job performance and career success outcomes. As indicated earlier, there was a significant relationship between race and gender among the respondents. Therefore, it was necessary to control for gender in all analyses so that conclusions regarding race differences were not confounded by gender differences between black and white employees. Though the black and white IS employees did not differ in the other demographic variables (age, organizational tenure, organization level, and education), these human capital variables may account for some variance in performance and career success and should be controlled for. Race differences in the set of variables under investigation were examined using univariate and multivariate analyses of covariance (correlations and MANCOVA, respectively). In each of the MANCOVA analyses conducted, race was the independent variable and job performance, and career success outcomes were the dependent variables.

The second stage of the analyses involved examination of the factors that could explain any race differences found in the job performance and career success. The objective was to determine whether observed differences in career success could be attributed to race differences in job performance and the effect of job performance on career success. Thus, hierarchical multiple regression analyses were performed to determine which specific job performance would explain gender differences in career success. However, Table 1 shows that organizational tenure and age are highly correlated (r = .80, p [less than or equal to] .001) which may cause multicollinearity problems. Therefore we excluded organizational tenure from the demographic variables.

In order to test Hypothesis 1, job performance ratings were regressed on demographic variables in the first step, with race added to the equation in the second step of the analysis. Hypotheses 2 and 3 were examined by regressing each job performance attribution on demographic variables in step 1, with race added in step 2, and job performance ratings added in step 3. In order to test Hypotheses 4 and 5, satisfaction, promotability, career plateau status and career advancement were each regressed on demographic variables (step 1), with race added in step 2, job performance ratings added in step 3, and the performance attributions added in step 4.

In each analysis, the significance of the beta weight for the hypothesized independent variable was examined to determine support for the hypothesis. In addition, the beta weight for race (step 2) was examined to determine whether there was an initial race effect on the dependent variable, and the recalculated beta weight for race in the last step of the analysis was examined to determine whether the initial race effect (if there was one) persisted after controlling for subsequent variables in Figure 1.


The intercorrelations among the study variables are shown in Table 1. As indicated, there were significant relationships between race and the job performance ratings, two attributions (ability and effort), career plateau status, and career satisfaction. The presence of a significant race effect on job performance ratings, two attributions, career plateau status, and career satisfaction indicated a partial support for our hypotheses (Hypotheses 1, 2, and 4). Compared to the black IS employees, the white IS employees were rated higher on job performance ratings, were more likely to have their performance attributed to internal/factors, were less likely to be career plateaued, and were more satisfied with their careers.

Table 2 shows the results of the multivariate analysis of covariance. Controlling for demographic variables, the analyses showed similar to Table 1 results, except for Career satisfaction and promotability. Table 2 shows that while no race differences in career satisfaction were found, significant differences in promotability were found, where whites were perceived by their supervisors as having better chances for promotion than blacks. However, when we controlled for demographic variables and job performance ratings, univariate analyses revealed no association between race and performance attributions. The presence of a significant race effect on job performance ratings indicated support for our hypothesis (Hypothesis 1).
Table 3. Results of Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Job
Performance Evaluations

Variables                  Beta    [Delta][R.sup.2]   [R.sup.2]

Gender(*)               .09
Organizational Level    .10
Education               .18
Age                    -.14             .05            .05
Race(**)                .23(***)        .05(***)       .10(***)

* 1 = Male; 2 = Female
** 1 = Black; 2 = White
*** p [less than or equal to] .05
**** p [less than or equal to] .01
***** p [less than or equal to] .001

Table 3 presents the results of the hierarchical regression analyses relevant to Hypothesis 1. The results essentially confirm the findings of ANOVA and MANCOVA, in that white IS employees were rated higher on job performance ratings, than were black IS employees. Race was found to influence job performance evaluation ratings ([Beta] = .23, p [less than or equal to] .01).

The results of the analyses relevant to Hypotheses 2 and 3 are shown in Table 4. Consistent with Hypothesis 2, Table 5 shows that a significant race effect on both attribution factors - ability and effort ([Beta] = .27 and .27, p [less than or equal to] .01, respectively). In support of Hypothesis 3, the job performance factors explained a substantial portion of the variance in both attributions (31% and 31%, respectively), in which high levels of job performance evoked internal attributions by the supervisor. It is noted that the race effects on attributions were no longer significant when controlling for subsequent variables in Figure 1, i.e., job performance ratings. In other words, race had no direct effects on both attributions.

Table 5 presents the results of the analyses relevant to Hypotheses 4 and 5. It indicates there was a significant race effect on career plateau. Gender was also found to have a significant effect on promotability. Job performance ratings also explained a large portion of the variance of promotability and career advancement prospects ([Delta][R.sup.2] = .13 and .12, p [less than] .001, respectively). Performance attributions had no effects on career success (Note that both attributions are correlated with career success, however when we controlled for demographic variable and ratings, these effects were no longer significant). Note the race effect on promotability was no longer significant after controlling for job performance ratings and attributions. However, the race effect on career plateau status persisted when controlling for the subsequent variables in Figure 1 ([Beta] = -.20, p [less than or equal to] .05), indicating the initial race difference in career plateau status was not entirely due to job performance ratings or attributions. Table 5 also shows that demographic variables explained a large portion of the variance in promotability, career plateau status, advancement, and satisfaction ([Delta][R.sup.2] = .28, .11, .17, and .18, p [less than or equal to] .01, respectively). Among the demographic variables, age had strong negative effects on promotability, advancement, and career plateau status.


This study provided evidence that blacks experience more restricted career advancement than whites in the IS field. Consistent with our expectations, results of this study show that white IS employees experienced more favorable career opportunities than blacks. Taken as a whole, these results confirm reports that blacks encounter a glass ceiling in business. Organizations should increase their awareness of the career development needs for all employees and particularly blacks, as well as their commitment to Affirmative Action/Equal
Table 2. Results of MANCOVA for Study Variables

                                Subgroup Means(*)

                                 Blacks     Whites    Univariate F
Variables                       (n = 66)   (n = 66)   For Race

Job Performance Evaluations     5.29       5.76       9.20(*****)
Job Performance Attributions:
Ability Attribution             3.90       4.30       7.56(*****)
Effort Attribution              4.00       4.41       7.58(******)
Promotability(***)              1.85       2.15       4.94(*****)
Career Plateau Status(**)       1.27       1.12       4.67(****)
Advancement Prospects           3.18       3.27        .21
Career Satisfaction             3.39       3.61       1.56

* Means adjusted for demographic covariates (gender, age, and
organizational level).

** Career plateau status coded 1 = not plateaued; 2 = plateaued.

*** Promotability coded 1 = no or low likelihood; 2 = moderate
likelihood; and 3 = high likelihood.

**** p [less than or equal to] .05

***** p [less than or equal to] .01

****** p [less than or equal to] .001



Employment Opportunity (AA/EEO) throughout the company's existing functions, mainly the IS field. Organizations should ensure a diverse workforce of qualified individuals and should address the glass ceiling issue. This may contribute to the range of career options within the IS field that are not limited to a particular group.

IS departments may not be comfortable places for blacks to work. Since technical jobs may be race-typed as belonging to the white male domain, it is possible that blacks working in IS professional positions are seen as less capable of acquiring additional technical competence, and are therefore viewed as less promotable than whites. Since our study supports the notion of the existence of a glass ceiling that keeps blacks from reaching the executive level, it is possible that blacks would experience restricted access to top management positions, including that of chief information officer. Future research should explore the potential barriers to promotability among blacks with aspirations to upper management and executive careers, to find where in the organizational hierarchy such careers get stalled, preventing blacks from moving all the way up the management hierarchy.

The most powerful predictor of advancement prospects was job performance evaluations, a finding consistent with the views of London and Stumpf [13]. It is found the race differences in promotability disappeared when controlling for job performance. If the performance rating process is fair and unbiased, it should strengthen perceptions of performance-reward contingencies. This suggests that black IS employees were seen as having relatively restricted advancement opportunities because they receive lower performance ratings than whites. This also suggests that career advancement opportunities of minorities could be resolved if we can remove the bias in the performance evaluation process. This would mean the fast tracking system to promote minorities may be a misplaced effort. Management effort should be on correcting the performance evaluation process rather than creating special mobility patterns.

Contrary to prediction, however, internal attributions had no impact on career success. But internal attributions, specifically efforts, were correlated with enhanced likelihood for promotion. Nevertheless, it should be recalled that internal attributions played a less critical role in the promotion process than the employee's level of job performance.

In this study, blacks received lower ratings of job performance than whites. This study also shows that blacks were rated lower on job performance evaluation ratings. These race differences in performance ratings are particularly disturbing because of their powerful role in supervisors' determination of MIS employees' career advancement opportunities. Although black IS employees were found to receive lower performance ratings than their white counterparts, the results of the present study clearly indicate the need to monitor the performance rating process within the IS function.

Ilgen and Youtz [6] have suggested that race differences in job performance may be explained by disparate treatment experienced by minorities. It is possible that race differences in rated job performance are due to treatment discrimination conditions that provide few opportunities or incentives for minorities to perform at a high level. Since Igbaria and Wormley [5] reported there were race differences in organizational experiences, it is important to examine whether organizational experiences were responsible for the race differences in rated job performance and success. It is also possible the race differences in job performance were real and the result of personality, orientations, or other individual factors. Future research should examine a number of organizational and individual factors [6] that may affect the perceived or actual performance of black MIS employees.

Second, the possibility of bias in supervisory ratings of job performance must continue to be examined. It is suggested that individuals may discriminate in favor of ingroup members and against outgroup members (Turner [24] discusses in detail the social categorization and group formation and the effect of that in intergroup discrimination). Additionally, based on the proposition of Ilgen and Youtz [6] that rater bias can be one source of race differences in job performance ratings, we examined the effects of the supervisor's race and subordinate's race on the subordinates' job performance ratings. Since most of the employees (93.9%) were evaluated by white raters, it is possible that supervisors used race rather than work-related cues in evaluating their subordinates.

The presence of rater bias has been indicated in some studies, the most prominent illustration of which is the tendency of raters to give higher ratings to same race ratees [11]. Other studies found no rater bias, particularly in the military work settings where blacks constituted a larger percentage of the work group [20]. Stereotyping, information selection and use, and judgment processes [6] should be examined as potential sources of bias in future research. Such research ideally should include objective measures of job performance (e.g., task goal accomplishment) to determine the relationship between objective and subjective performance evaluations under different circumstances and to determine precisely the presence of bias in job performance evaluations.

In support of Hypothesis 2, supervisors were relatively unlikely to attribute the performance of black IS employees to internal factors, i.e., efforts and skills, a finding consistent with Ilgen & Youtz' speculations. In other words, even when blacks perform satisfactorily on the job, their performance is less likely to be attributed to internal causes than the performance of white IS employees. The study also highlights the potential risk of supervisors discounting the successful performance of black MIS employees because of their reluctance to attribute the performance of black MIS employees to their efforts and abilities. This is likely to have significant implications for promotion, pay increase, and other career outcomes for both groups. However, race differences in internal attributions disappeared when controlling for performance ratings, suggesting the impact of race on supervisory attributions operates through the supervisor's assessment of an employee's job performance.

The job performance of white IS employees is more likely to be attributed to internal factors because white IS employees are seen as performing more effectively than blacks, and high levels of performance tend to be attributed to internal factors. The indirect effect of race on attributions also indicates that if the job performance rating process were unbiased, then race differences would be simply due to blacks' relative job performance which, in turn, generated weak ability and effort attributions. This suggests it is not the race per se that influences a supervisor's internal attributions, but rather the level of job performance the individual has achieved. On the other hand, if the job performance rating process were biased, then blacks are effectively penalized twice during the performance appraisal process: once through an assessment of a relatively low level of job performance, and subsequently through low internal attributions that follow from the low level of perceived performance.

It is also possible the job performance of moderately high-performing blacks was not sufficiently high to have violated their supervisors' expectations. This suggests there may be a threshold level of job performance that triggers race biases in performance attributions. It appears that explanations offered for the high performance of black and white IS employees differ markedly. This highlights the potential risk of supervisors discounting the high performance of blacks because of their reluctance to attribute the success of blacks to their efforts and abilities. This is likely to have implications for promotion and other career outcomes for both groups.

In summary, this study suggests that organizations need to be sensitive to the potential for differential treatment of black and white employees. Blacks were perceived to have less favorable career advancement prospects and to have plateaued at lower levels of the workforce than white IS employees. Additionally, the performance of blacks was less likely to be attributed to abilities and efforts and was more likely to be attributed to help and luck than the performance of white employees. One common element of these differentiations is the employee's immediate supervisors. In order to prepare managers and supervisors for meeting the realities of workforce 2000, and addressing these differentiation issues, organizations should address the challenge of managing diversity in the workplace. These programs should enable managers to tap the potential of all employees, regardless of race and gender. Managing diversity through increased education and training programs can be an important step in this process.

Future research should examine the impact of such programs on the glass ceiling encountered by women and minorities. Additionally, research should examine race differences for a variety of samples of IS employees. Since the data came from one large communications company, the reader should be cautioned that our findings may not be generalizable to a broader cross-section of organizations. The generalizability of these findings to other companies and industries awaits confirmation through additional research. Also, our findings may result from the culture of the particular company rather than the culture of the IS occupation and should be considered in this light. Nevertheless, this study provides important insights into the advancement opportunities of black and whites in the IS field. We hope these findings will stimulate additional research in field settings on the similar and unique career advancement prospects and job performance ratings and attributions of minorities, and contribute to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of race and gender in the career development of IS managers and professionals.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Our study confirmed the presence of race differences in job performance evaluations, attributions, career advancement prospects, and career satisfaction. Black IS employees received lower job performance ratings, were less likely to have their job performance attributed to internal causes, were less successful in their jobs, were perceived as having less favorable advancement prospects, were more likely to be plateaued in their careers, and experienced lower career satisfaction than white IS employees. These findings should alert employers to be more vigilant in their efforts to ensure equal employment opportunities for all employees, and encourage additional research on the career experiences of minorities and on how to manage a diverse workforce, particularly in the technology field.

Organizations should be responsive to the career development needs of all employees, particularly minorities and women, because of their disparate treatment in the past and underutilized potential. A variety of approaches are being used to eliminate differential treatment and to recognize and manage the diversity that exists in the organization. Managing diversity through increased education and training can be an important step in this process. For example, DuPont offers education and training programs such as "Men and Women Working Together" to provide fundamental information of managing diversity and reducing discrimination at all types of corporations [16].

It is recommended that organizations monitor the performance evaluation process to include more objective measures of job performance and ensure that the performance appraisal process is administered fairly. Organizations should examine their policies, practices, and procedures to identify and eliminate barriers to effective employee performance, advancement, job and career satisfaction, and success in the organization. A clear message should be sent that discrimination will not be tolerated. Finally, organizations should assess their culture and then modify as needed to create a working environment that empowers employees and allows them to achieve their full potential, regardless of race or gender.


This research was partially supported by a grant from the David D. Lattanze Center for Executive Studies in Information Systems, School of Business and Management, Loyola College, Baltimore, Md.


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About the Authors:

MAGID IGBARIA is a visiting professor of Decision Sciences at the University of Hawaii and a professor of MIS at Drexel University. His current research interests focus upon international information systems, management of information systems, career development of MIS professionals, and computer acceptance.

WAYNE M. WORMLEY is an assistant professor of management at Drexel University. He is currently conducting research on corporate career development systems and the career development of black managers. Other research interests include higher education management and managing cultural diversity in the workplace.

Authors' Present Address: Department of Management, Drexel University, 32nd and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19104, email: magid
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Author:Igbaria, Magid; Wormley, Wayne M.
Publication:Communications of the ACM
Date:Mar 1, 1995
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