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When birds of a feather flock together and when they do not: Status composition, social dominance orientation, and organizational attractiveness

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Although similarity-attraction notions suggest that similarity--for example, in terms of values, personality, and demography--attracts, the authors found that sometimes demographic similarity attracts and sometimes it repels. Consistent with social dominance theory (J. Sidanius & F. Pratto, 1999), they demonstrated in 3 studies that when prospective employees supported group-based social hierarchies (i.e., were high in social dominance orientation), those in high-status groups were attracted to demographic similarity within an organization, whereas those in low-status groups were repelled by it. An important theoretical implication of the findings is that social dominance theory and traditional similarity-attraction notions together help explain a more complex relationship between demographic similarity and attraction than was previously acknowledged in the organizational literature.
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When Birds of a Feather Flock Together and When They Do Not:
Status Composition, Social Dominance Orientation,
and Organizational Attractiveness
Elizabeth E. Umphress
Texas A&M University
Kristin Smith-Crowe and Arthur P. Brief
University of Utah
Joerg Dietz
University of Western Ontario
Marla Baskerville Watkins
Tulane University
Although similarity–attraction notions suggest that similarity—for example, in terms of values, person-
ality, and demography—attracts, the authors found that sometimes demographic similarity attracts and
sometimes it repels. Consistent with social dominance theory (J. Sidanius & F. Pratto, 1999), they
demonstrated in 3 studies that when prospective employees supported group-based social hierarchies
(i.e., were high in social dominance orientation), those in high-status groups were attracted to demo-
graphic similarity within an organization, whereas those in low-status groups were repelled by it. An
important theoretical implication of the findings is that social dominance theory and traditional
similarity–attraction notions together help explain a more complex relationship between demographic
similarity and attraction than was previously acknowledged in the organizational literature.
Keywords: similarity–attraction, social dominance orientation, workforce diversity, recruitment, organi-
zational attractiveness
Organizational scholars have paid considerable attention to the
consequences of diversity, defined, for example, in terms of race
and gender composition (for reviews of the literature see, e.g., Tsui
& Gutek, 1999; and Williams & O’Reilly, 1998). The causes of
organizational diversity also have been examined (for reviews of
the literature see, e.g., Brief, Butz, & Deitch, 2004; Cleveland,
Vescio, & Barnes-Farrell, 2004; Reskin, McBrier, & Kmec, 1999).
Research on the causes of diversity has focused on the employ-
ment policies, practices, and procedures used by organizations to
explain the inclusion or exclusion of out-group members (e.g.,
Blacks and women). What has not been investigated in any detail
is how the preferences of prospective organizational members
might influence the demographic composition of organizations. If,
for instance, the adage that birds of a feather flock together holds
true, one would expect individuals to be attracted to organizations
populated with people like themselves (e.g., Petersen & Dietz,
2005; Schneider, Goldstein, & Smith, 1995), thus inhibiting pro-
cesses that otherwise may lead to ethnic or gender diversity. In this
article, we argue that sometimes such is the case and other times
birds of a feather do not flock together. To explain when individ-
uals are and are not attracted to organizations composed of others
to whom they are demographically similar,
1
we turn to social
dominance theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). This theory, in part,
argues that intergroup conflict is symptomatic of the human pre-
disposition to form and maintain group-based hierarchical systems
of social organization. Overall, our intent is to understand better
how organizations come to be demographically composed; the
tenets of social dominance theory provide new insights into this
problem.
The remainder of our article unfolds as follows. First, drawing
on a variety of theoretical and empirical evidence, such as Schnei-
der’s (1987) organizational attraction–selection–attrition model as
well as studies in social psychology demonstrating that similarity
on a wide variety of specific characteristics is associated with
interpersonal attraction (e.g., Hogg, Cooper-Shaw, & Holzworth,
1993), we argue that birds of a feather sometimes flock together.
We argue further that this attraction of individuals to organizations
populated with people demographically like themselves is espe-
cially true among members of so-called dominant or high-status
groups (e.g., Whites) who express relatively high levels of social
dominance orientation (SDO; i.e., the tendency to hold nonegali-
tarian values and to support hierarchically structured relationships
among social groups; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). However, again
1
In our work, we examine situations in which demographic similarity
within prospective organizations attracts and when it repels. We use the
term demographic similarity to refer to situations in which a potential
employee shares demographic characteristics (e.g., race or gender) with
employees within the recruiting organization.
Elizabeth E. Umphress, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University;
Kristin Smith-Crowe and Arthur P. Brief, Department of Management,
University of Utah; Joerg Dietz, Richard Ivey School of Business, Uni-
versity of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; Marla Baskerville
Watkins, A. B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth
E. Umphress, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, College
Station, TX 77843. E-mail: eumphress@mays.tamu.edu
Journal of Applied Psychology Copyright 2007 by the American Psychological Association
2007, Vol. 92, No. 2, 396 409 0021-9010/07/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.2.396
396
drawing on social dominance theory, we assert that members of
nondominant or low-status groups (e.g., women) who are rela-
tively high in SDO are less attracted to an organization that
appears to be particularly inclusive of their own demographic
group; that is, we describe when one should expect birds of a
feather not to flock together. We report three studies that were
designed to test these arguments and discuss the implications of
our theorizing and empirical results for understanding the causes
of diversity.
Birds of a Feather
More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle (ca. 384 –322 B.C.E./1984)
hypothesized that individuals who are similar to one another
become friends and those who are dissimilar do not. Considerable
social psychological research in the 20th century indicates that he
generally was right: There is a similarity–attraction effect (e.g.,
Byrne, 1971; Newcomb, 1961; see McPherson, Smith-Lovin, &
Cook, 2001, for a review). This effect also is evident in the
organizational literature. For example, Schneider (1987) advanced
an attraction–selection–attrition framework, positing that these
processes contribute to organizations being populated with people
of similar values and personalities. The attraction in the framework
refers to persons being attracted to organizations composed of
individuals like themselves (see Schneider et al., 1995, for a
review of the literature). Similarity–attraction thinking also is
evident in much of the research on organizational demography
(Williams & O’Reilly, 1998). In this literature, some evidence
shows that demographic similarity (e.g., in terms of gender and
race) in organizations is associated with employees reporting, for
example, higher levels of job satisfaction and organizational com-
mitment (e.g., Riordan & Shore, 1997; Tsui, Egan, & O’Reilly,
1992), but other evidence shows that demographic similarity does
not generate such positive effects (Jackson, Joshi, & Erhardt, 2003;
Webber & Donahue, 2001).
It is important to note, however, that social psychological re-
search suggests that the strength of similarity–attraction relation-
ships is conditional (i.e., moderated). For instance, Snyder’s
(1974) self-monitoring personality variable (e.g., Jamieson, Ly-
don, & Zanna, 1987) and the kind of similarity shared (e.g., Tesser,
Millar, & Moore, 1988) have been found to influence similarity–
attraction relationships. Furthermore, research suggests that the
similarity–attraction relationship specifically in regard to the com-
position of organizations is not a simple one (Chatman & O’Reilly,
2004). For example, some evidence indicates that people find
potential employers more attractive when those employers are
portrayed as demographically similar (e.g., racially; James, Brief,
Dietz, & Cohen, 2001; Young, Place, Rinehart, Jury, & Baits,
1997), but others have shown that this is not so (Avery, 2003;
Avery, Hernandez, & Hebl, 2004; Cable & Judge, 1996; Perkins,
Thomas, & Taylor, 2000). Below, we offer an explanation as to
when prospective employees are attracted to organizations popu-
lated with people demographically like themselves and when they
are not. Before doing so, however, we briefly review social dom-
inance theory, as it is the foundation on which our explanation is
built.
Social Dominance Theory
Sidanius and Pratto (1999) provided the most detailed statement
of social dominance theory and a comprehensive review of em-
pirical research addressing it. The theory is built on the assumption
that all human societies are structured as systems of group-based
social hierarchies, consisting of three different stratification sys-
tems: age systems, gender systems, and arbitrarily set systems.
These latter systems are filled with socially constructed and highly
salient groups based on such characteristics as ethnicity, race,
caste, social class, and religion (see also Van den Berghe, 1978).
Members of high-status groups in these hierarchies possess a
disproportionate share of positive social value (or desirable sym-
bolic and material possessions, e.g., wealth, superior health care,
or political power), and low-status groups possess a disproportion-
ate share of negative social value. Beyond explaining why inter-
group conflict occurs, social dominance theory essentially attempts
to identify the mechanisms that produce and maintain such group-
based hierarchies.
SDO is the psychological component of social dominance the-
ory. It is defined as “the degree to which individuals desire and
support group-based hierarchy and the domination of ‘inferior’
groups by ‘superior’ groups” (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, p. 48).
Consistently, measures of SDO have been shown to correlate
highly with prejudice against a variety of low-status groups (e.g.,
Blacks and women; Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994;
Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996). Central to our purposes is social
dominance theory’s assertion that as members of high-status
groups embrace group dominance motives and hierarchy-
justifying ideologies (i.e., the higher they are in SDO), they should
identify more with their in-group but that the exact opposite is true
for members of subordinate groups. That is, as SDO increases,
members of lower status groups reject their in-group, and, con-
versely, members of high-status groups embrace theirs. In support
of their theory, Sidanius and Pratto (1999) have shown in samples
of Whites compared with Blacks and Latinos; men compared with
women; and heterosexuals compared with gays, lesbians, and
bisexuals that the relationship between SDO and in-group favor-
itism is positive among members of high-status groups and nega-
tive among members of low-status groups.
Building on the above rationale, we expect that among members
of high-status groups (e.g., Whites or men), attraction to organi-
zations populated with demographically similar others (e.g., other
Whites or other men) increases with increasing levels of SDO.
This scenario would be a case of birds of a feather flocking
together. We predict that as SDO increases, members of high-
status groups find diverse organizations less attractive. Con-
versely, we expect that, among members of low-status groups
(e.g., women), attraction to organizations populated with demo-
graphically similar others decreases with increasing levels of SDO.
This scenario would be a case of birds of a feather not flocking
together. In other words, we are positing that SDO moderates the
relationship between the status composition of an organization
(i.e., whether an organization is composed of employees who are
members of high- or low-status groups) and organizational attrac-
tiveness such that potential applicants are more attracted to an
organization composed of high- rather than low-status employees
as SDO increases. This relationship implies that for potential
397
WHEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER DO NOT FLOCK TOGETHER
applicants who are high in SDO, (a) demographic similarity at-
tracts when the applicant is a member of a high-status group and
(b) demographic similarity repels when the applicant is a member
of a low-status group. It is important to note that demographic
similarity alone may not provide enough information to gauge
whether prospective employees will be attracted to any given
organization, as suggested by the idea that demographic similarity
can sometimes attract or repel. Rather, we argue that one may
require at least two pieces of information to determine attraction:
(a) the status composition of the organization (i.e., composed of
high- or low-status employees), and (b) the potential employee’s
level of SDO. Whether the potential employee is male, female,
White, or Black may not be particularly informative because, as
we demonstrate in our work, there is a tendency for those who are
high in SDO to be attracted to organizations composed of members
of high-status groups and repelled by organizations composed of
members of low-status groups— even those groups to which the
potential employee belongs. Reported below are three studies
designed to assess the validity of our theoretical position. Doing so
is important, for, as we have asserted, there is a need to understand
better the forces that facilitate and inhibit levels of organizational
diversity.
Study 1: When Birds of a Demographic Feather Flock
Together
Consistent with the notion that birds of a feather flock together,
both traditional similarity–attraction notions and social dominance
theory (e.g., Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) suggest that members of
high-status groups demonstrate in-group favoritism; however, so-
cial dominance theory takes us beyond this fundamental hypoth-
esis to predict that this effect strengthens as SDO increases. With
respect to their attraction to recruiting organizations, we assert that
members of high-status groups (i.e., Whites) who are high in SDO
report greater levels of attraction to an organization composed of
individuals to whom they are demographically similar (i.e., an
organization composed of high-status employees, or other Whites)
and lower levels of attraction to an organization composed of
dissimilar individuals (i.e., an organization composed of low-status
employees, e.g., Blacks) than members of high-status groups who
are low in SDO. Thus, this reasoning implies that members of
high-status groups (e.g., Whites) who are high in SDO are “turned
off” by diverse organizations (in this case, racially diverse orga-
nizations).
Hypothesis 1: As the SDO of members of high-status groups
increases, they will be more attracted to organizations com-
posed of high-status group members like themselves rather
than organizations composed of low-status group members.
Method
Participants
Undergraduate students were recruited, independently of ethnicity, from
business classes at a private university in the southern United States. Of the
students recruited to participate, 108 were White; these individuals con-
stituted our sample. Approximately half of these participants were women
(n 56), and their average age was 20.5 years.
Procedure
The study was conducted in two phases. SDO and modern racism data
were collected during Phase 1 of the study. Phase 2 of the study, which
took place approximately 6 weeks later, consisted of the same participants
evaluating a recruitment letter from a fictional company nicknamed IN-
DISCO. This recruitment letter was adapted from the recruitment letter
previously used by James et al. (2001) and contained the independent
variable manipulation (status composition). Participants were told that their
help was needed to evaluate the letter because individuals like themselves
would be the intended targets of the letter and researchers therefore were
particularly interested in their reactions to it. Their assessment of the letter
included the dependent variable, organizational attractiveness.
Manipulation and Measures
Status composition. The recruitment letter contained a paragraph in-
troducing the fictional company, INDISCO, followed by a number of facts
about the company and a paragraph asking those interested in the company
to call and schedule an interview. The majority of the information con-
tained in the recruitment letter was filler material to make it seem realistic
and to disguise the true purpose of the study. For instance, the recruitment
letter provided information regarding INDISCO’s stock ownership plan,
fringe benefits programs, management participation, and education pro-
grams.
We manipulated status composition in the organization in part by em-
bedding in the letter the ostensibly White recruiter names of Tom Drake,
Jay McBride, and Ted Miller (Park & Banaji, 2000) or the ostensibly Black
recruiter names of Tyrone Ellis, Leroy Washington, and Leotis Paine (Park
& Banaji, 2000). Participants were assigned randomly to either the low-
status composition condition (depicted by the Black recruiter names) or the
high-status composition condition (depicted by the White recruiter names).
We reinforced low-status composition by embedding a description of
INDISCO’s board of directors in the letter (adopted from the actual
recruiting materials of Sempra Energy, the California-based parent com-
pany of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Company).
Participants in the low-status composition condition read, “Over 30 percent
of our Board of Directors are African American and other people of color.”
This description of the racial composition of the board was omitted in the
high-status composition condition. The combination of our manipulations
(i.e., the recruiter names and the description of the board of directors)
served to indicate the racial composition of INDISCO as being either more
or less racially similar to our White participants (0 low-status compo-
sition and 1 high-status composition).
SDO. SDO was measured with Sidanius, Pratto, Sinclair, and van
Laar’s (1996) 16-item scale. Representative items from this scale are
“Superior groups should dominate inferior groups” and “To get ahead in
life, it is sometimes necessary to step on other groups.” Participants
indicated the extent to which they agreed with each item on a 7-point
Likert-type scale (ranging from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly
agree). Responses to the 16 items were averaged to yield a scale score.
Higher scores on the SDO scale indicated higher levels of SDO. This scale
demonstrated high internal consistency (␣⫽.90; Cronbach, 1951).
Organizational attractiveness. After reading the recruitment letter,
participants were asked to respond to seven items, similar to those of James
et al. (2001), Schwoerer and Rosen (1989), and Williams and Bauer
(1994), regarding the attractiveness of INDISCO as a potential employer.
Examples of these items are “How attractive is INDISCO as a potential
employer to you?” and “Would you schedule an interview with IN-
DISCO?” Participants responded to these items using 7-point Likert-type
scales, with higher values indicating that participants were more attracted
to the company. This scale demonstrated high internal consistency (␣⫽
.87).
Gender. Gender was used as a control variable because previous
literature has indicated that SDO varies by gender, such that men display
higher levels of SDO than women (for a review see Sidanius & Pratto,
398
UMPHRESS, SMITH-CROWE, BRIEF, DIETZ, AND WATKINS
1999), and because the stimulus names used in the manipulation were
stereotypically male. Gender was dummy coded such that 1 male and
2 female.
Modern racism. Modern racism was used as a control in this study. It
has been suggested that old-fashioned racist attitudes toward Blacks have
evolved into a subtler and socially acceptable set of beliefs (i.e., modern
racism) that are seemingly benign but just as negative as old-fashioned
racism. Modern racists support such beliefs as
discrimination is a thing of the past because blacks now have the
freedom to compete in the marketplace and to enjoy those things they
can afford, and Blacks are pushing too hard, too fast and into places
where they are not wanted. (McConahay, 1986, pp. 92–93)
Because modern racists have negative reactions toward Blacks (e.g., Brief,
Dietz, Cohen, Pugh, & Vaslow, 2000; McConahay, 1983) and modern
racism is positively related to SDO (e.g., Hodson & Esses, 2005), we
controlled for it in our study. Participants responded to McConahay,
Hardee, and Batts’s (1981) seven-item Modern Racism Scale. This scale
demonstrated high internal consistency (␣⫽.83).
Results
Manipulation Check
The effectiveness of the diversity manipulation was assessed
with an independent sample of 38 undergraduate students enrolled
in business classes. These individuals were randomly assigned to
read either the high- or the low-status composition recruitment
letter. Afterward, they responded to the manipulation check item
“INDISCO is a racially-diverse organization” using a 7-point
Likert-type scale (1 strongly disagree and 7 strongly agree).
A t test indicated that the manipulation was successful, t(36)
2.49, p .05: Those in the low-status composition condition
were more likely to agree that INDISCO was a racially diverse
organization (M 5.24) compared with those in the high-status
composition condition (M 4.47).
Hypothesis Testing
See Table 1 for the means, standard deviations, and intercorre-
lations for all variables. We performed hierarchical multiple re-
gression analysis (Cohen & Cohen, 1983) to test our hypothesis.
Hypothesis 1 states that as the SDO of members of high-status
groups increases, they will be more attracted to organizations
composed of high-status group members rather than organizations
composed of lower status group members.
The regression analysis consisted of four steps (see Table 2 for
the results). In Step 1, organizational attractiveness was regressed
on two control variables, gender and modern racism. This step did
not produce significant results (R
2
.04). In Step 2, organizational
attractiveness was regressed on status composition. The results of
Step 2 showed a significant effect of status composition on orga-
nizational attractiveness (R
2
.08; R
2
.04). Participants who
received a recruitment letter from an organization primarily com-
posed of employees from high-status groups (i.e., other Whites)
were more attracted to the organization than were participants who
received a recruitment letter from an organization composed of
employees who were from lower status groups (i.e., Blacks). In
Step 3, organizational attractiveness was regressed on SDO. The
results of Step 3 indicated that, as expected, participants’ levels of
SDO did not significantly predict their ratings of organizational
attractiveness (R
2
.09; R
2
.01). In Step 4, organizational
attractiveness was regressed on the interaction term (status com-
position SDO). The results of Step 4 indicated support for
Hypothesis 1. The significant change in multiple correlation
squared for the interaction term shows that SDO moderated the
status composition–attractiveness relationship (R
2
.14; R
2
.05). Status composition in an organization interacted with SDO
such that the positive relationship between status composition and
organizational attractiveness was stronger when SDO was high
than when SDO was low (see Figure 1).
Discussion
The results of this study demonstrate that members of high-
status groups who were high in SDO showed stronger attraction to
organizations composed of their own high-status group members
than to organizations composed of low-status group members.
That is, the degree to which a person supports “the domination of
‘inferior’ groups by ‘superior’ groups” (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, p.
48) seems to help explain why some members of high-status
groups may have especially positive reactions to demographic
similarity (or adverse reactions to the presence of diversity) within
organizations. We also found, consistent with the well-noted
similarity–attraction effect demonstrated in the previously re-
viewed literatures (e.g., Williams & O’Reilly, 1998), that members
of high-status groups generally preferred the demographically sim-
ilar organization, regardless of their level of SDO. However, not
all members of high-status groups showed an equally strong pref-
erence for organizations composed of demographically similar,
high-status group members; those high in SDO were more suscep-
Table 1
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for Study 1
Variable MSD12 3 4 5
1. Status composition
a
0.54 0.50 .04 .22
*
.07 .01
2. SDO 3.07 0.99 .16 .36
**
.56
**
3. Organizational attractiveness 5.23 0.94 .20
*
.09
4. Gender
b
1.55 0.52 .38
**
5. Modern racism 2.32 0.69
Note. SDO social dominance orientation.
a
Status composition was coded such that 0 low-status composition and 1 high-status composition.
b
Gender was coded such that 1 male and 2 female.
*
p .05.
**
p .01.
399
WHEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER DO NOT FLOCK TOGETHER
tible to demographic similarity–attraction effects than those low in
SDO, which thus provides support for the tenets of social domi-
nance theory. Therefore, we have demonstrated in the context of
prospective organizational members’ perceptions of organizational
attractiveness that the demographic similarity–attraction relation-
ship is somewhat conditional. That is, consistent with social dom-
inance theory, SDO determines the strength of the demographic
similarity–attraction relationship.
In Study 1, we chose to focus on high-status group members’
reactions to status composition of an organization. As mentioned
previously, however, according to social dominance theory, certain
members of low-status groups should demonstrate different demo-
graphic similarity–attraction effects. Whereas in Study 1 members
of high-status groups who were high in SDO showed in-group
favoritism, we expect that members of low-status groups who are
high in SDO would show out-group favoritism for high-status
groups. This contradiction in the demographic similarity–
attraction hypothesis suggests that members of low-status groups
(e.g., Blacks or women) who are high in SDO are less attracted to
diverse organizations populated by members of low-status groups
like themselves than to organizations composed of members of
high-status groups (e.g., Whites and men).
Study 2: When Birds of a Demographic Feather Do Not
Flock Together
Social dominance theory posits that individuals high in SDO,
regardless of race, gender, or social class, have negative reactions
toward low-status groups, even the ones to which they belong
(e.g., Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). In support of this assertion, for
example, women high in SDO, as compared with those low in
SDO, expressed more negative evaluations of a female plaintiff
(Jost & Burgess, 2000). Moreover, Latinos high in SDO reported
more support of discriminatory policies favoring majority groups
than Latinos low in SDO (Levin, Federico, Sidanius, & Rabinow-
itz, 2002). These findings indicate that members of low-status
groups who are high in SDO defect from their own group, favoring
high-status groups, which suggests that opposites attract. That is,
members of low-status groups who are high in SDO are more
attracted to an organization primarily composed of high-status
group members (e.g., Whites or men) than to one composed of
members of their own groups. This assertion, supported by social
dominance theory, implies that members of high-status groups and
members of low-status groups who are high in SDO have asym-
metric reactions to demographic similarity on the basis of group
membership. The former are attracted to demographic similarity,
as evidenced by the findings of Study 1, and the latter are repelled
by demographic similarity, a proposition that we investigate in this
study. That is, members of both high- and low-status groups who
are high in SDO are repelled by organizations composed of mem-
bers of low-status groups, thereby demonstrating higher levels of
attraction to organizations composed of members of high-status
groups.
Hypothesis 2: As the SDO of members of a low-status group
increases, they will be more attracted to organizations com-
posed of high-status group members rather than organizations
composed of low-status group members like themselves.
Thus, in contrast to similarity–attraction paradigms, we expect
to show that some prospective employees (members of low-status
groups who are high in SDO) are turned off by organizations that
employ relatively high numbers of individuals who are demo-
graphically similar to themselves (i.e., diverse organizations). To
test this prediction, we examine women’s reactions to status com-
position.
Method
Participants
Participants were recruited, independently of race and gender, from
undergraduate business classes at a private university in the southern
United States. Only women were included in the final sample (N 49);
their average age was 20.4 years. The majority of our participants were
White (n 47).
Table 2
Results of Regression Analysis for Study 1
Step Variable R
2
R
2
1 Gender
a
0.19 .04
Modern racism 0.02
2 Gender
a
0.17 .08
*
.04
*
Modern racism 0.03
Status composition
b
0.21
*
3 Gender
a
0.15 .09 .01
Modern racism 0.02
Status composition
b
0.20
*
SDO 0.11
4 Gender
a
0.15 .14
*
.05
*
Modern racism 0.02
Status composition
b
0.48
SDO 0.31
*
Status Composition SDO 0.74
*
Note. N 106. SDO social dominance orientation.
a
Gender was coded such that 1 male and 2 female.
b
Status composition was coded such that 0
low-status composition and 1 high-status composition.
*
p .05.
400
UMPHRESS, SMITH-CROWE, BRIEF, DIETZ, AND WATKINS
Procedure
We used the two-phase procedure described in Study 1. In the first
phase, participants completed the SDO measure. In Phase 2, which took
place approximately 6 weeks later, these participants evaluated a recruit-
ment letter from a fictitious company. We used the same recruiting mate-
rials, except that the gender (rather than the race) of the recruiters’ names
was manipulated to reflect status composition. Participants reviewed the
recruitment letter and indicated their attraction to the organization and the
extent to which they would be willing to pursue a career with the organi-
zation.
Manipulation and Measures
Status composition. We manipulated status composition in the organi-
zation in part by inserting female (Jennifer Drake, Amanda McBride, and
Jessica Miller) or male (Michael Drake, Christopher McBride, and Mat-
thew Miller) recruiters’ names into the recruitment letter. The last names
were taken from Park and Banaji’s (2000) list of stereotypically White
names. The first names were chosen because they are the most common
first names of men and women in our participants’ age group (Social
Security Administration, 1997) and, as such, presumably are easily recog-
nizable as either male or female names. Participants were randomly as-
signed to either the high-status composition condition, in which the re-
cruiters were men (1 high-status composition), or the low-status
composition condition, in which the recruiters were women (0 low-
status composition). We reinforced status composition in the low-status
composition condition by adding the phrase “Representation of women on
our board of directors far exceeds the average representation of women in
Fortune 500 companies.”
SDO. Again, we used Sidanius, Pratto, Sinclair, and van Laar’s (1996)
SDO scale. The internal consistency was high (␣⫽.80).
Organizational attractiveness. We assessed organizational attractive-
ness with the same seven-item measure as in Study 1. The internal
consistency was high (␣⫽.91).
Race. We controlled for race because, as described in detail above, the
stimulus names used in the manipulation were stereotypically White. We
dummy coded race such that 0 non-White and 1 White.
Work experience. Work experience was used as a control because it is
possible that those with higher levels of work experience would be more
attracted to the recruitment letter than those who had less work experience.
Participants were asked to indicate the total number of months that they
had full-time work experience (i.e., employed 40 hours or more per week),
and this served as our measure of work experience.
Results
Manipulation Check
The effectiveness of the diversity manipulation was assessed
with one item, to which participants responded using a 7-point
Likert-type scale (ranging from 1 strongly disagree to 7
strongly agree). The item was “INDISCO is a gender-diverse
organization.” A t test showed that the manipulation was success-
ful, t(47) 2.83, p .05. Participants in the low-status compo-
sition condition were more likely to agree that the organization
was gender diverse (M 5.93) compared with those in the
high-status composition condition (M 5.05). This result indi-
cates that status composition was successfully manipulated.
6.5
6.0
5.5
5.0
3.5
Low Status Organization High Status Organization
Organizational Attractiveness
4.0
4.5
High SDO
Low SDO
7.0
Figure 1. Interaction between status composition and social dominance orientation (SDO) on organizational
attractiveness for Whites in Study 1.
401
WHEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER DO NOT FLOCK TOGETHER
Hypothesis Testing
The means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations for all
variables are reported in Table 3. We conducted a hierarchical
multiple regression analysis to test for our second hypothesis,
which stated that as the SDO of members of a low-status group
increases, they will be more attracted to organizations composed of
higher status group members rather than organizations composed
of low-status group members like themselves (see Table 4 for
results).
The hierarchical regression was performed in four steps. In Step
1, organizational attractiveness was regressed on the control vari-
ables, work experience and race. The results from this step were
not significant (R
2
.01). In Step 2, organizational attractiveness
was regressed on status composition. The results from this step
also were not significant (R
2
.03; R
2
.02). Next, SDO was
entered in the third step, indicating a positive effect of SDO on
organizational attractiveness (R
2
.11; R
2
.09). Finally, to test
for our hypothesis, we entered the two-way interaction between
SDO and status composition in the last step. The results from this
step show, as predicted, that the interaction between SDO and
status composition was significantly related to the participants’
ratings of organizational attractiveness (see Figure 2; R
2
.23;
R
2
.12).
Discussion
As in the previous study, we have demonstrated that not all
individuals exhibited the same demographic similarity–attraction
effects. Specifically, we found that as SDO increased, low-status
group members were more attracted to organizations populated by
employees from high-status groups than to organizations more
composed of similar, low-status group members. This preference
for an out-group (or repulsion for the in-group) contradicts tradi-
tional similarity–attraction notions as they are advanced in the
organizational demography literature (see Williams & O’Reilly,
1998, for a review). The tendency to prefer organizations com-
posed of high-status group members indicates that some members
of low-status groups (i.e., those high in SDO), like their high-status
group member counterparts, are turned off by diverse organiza-
tions. As predicted by social dominance theory, individuals high in
SDO tend to prefer organizations populated by traditional, high-
status group members, such as Whites and men. Such a preference
may represent a barrier to organizational diversity.
We are a bit puzzled by the unexpected, significant relationship
between SDO and organizational attractiveness. It might be that
women, dependent on their levels of SDO, react more sensitively
to status differentials. Alternatively, this relationship could be due
to our description of the stimulus organization as high status in its
field, as indicated by our assertion in the recruiting letter that
“INDISCO is a Fortune 500 company and a world leader in the
medical care products industry.” Because individuals high in SDO
are especially attuned and attracted to status, they might have
demonstrated a preference for our fictitious organization, indepen-
dent of gender composition, because of this description. However,
we did not find a similar effect in the first study. To better
understand these anomalous results, future research should inves-
tigate the impact of organizational status and SDO on organiza-
tional attractiveness.
Study 3: When Birds of a Demographic Feather Flock
Together and When They Do Not
The two studies detailed above show a consistent pattern of
results for those high in SDO. We demonstrated support for our
prediction in Study 1 using members of high-status groups as our
participants and manipulating status composition in terms of race,
and in Study 2 we showed further support for our prediction with
members of low-status groups as participants and manipulating
status composition in terms of gender. In both studies, regardless
of how demographic similarity was indicated— be it race or gen-
der—those high in SDO were less attracted to an organization
composed of members of lower status groups than to an organi-
zation composed of members of higher status groups. In Study 2,
in particular, we demonstrated evidence that demographic similar-
ity does not necessarily attract, such that low-status group mem-
bers who were high in SDO were more attracted to organizations
composed of high-status group members than to organizations
composed of members of their own low-status group. This evi-
dence suggests that simplistic notions of demographic similarity–
attraction may require further refinement, at least with regard to
those high in SDO.
To further test our assertions above, we conducted an additional
experiment. In Study 3, like the previous study, we manipulated
the status composition of an organization using gender. We in-
cluded, however, both men and women as participants because
thus far we have not used members of both low-status and high-
status groups as participants in the same study. In addition, we
controlled for perceived similarity to further establish the robust-
Table 3
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for Study 2
Variable MSD12 3 4 5
1. Status Composition
a
0.43 0.50 .25 .09 .04 .04
2. SDO 2.83 0.83 .33
*
.19 .01
3. Organizational attractiveness 5.53 1.04 .01 .18
4. Work experience 6.61 7.70 .01
5. Race
b
0.98 0.14
Note. SDO social dominance orientation.
a
Status composition was coded such that 0 low-status composition and 1 high-status composition.
b
Race
was coded such that 0 non-White and 1 White.
*
p .05.
402
UMPHRESS, SMITH-CROWE, BRIEF, DIETZ, AND WATKINS
ness of the moderating effect of SDO on the organizational status
composition–attractiveness relationship.
2
Even though we incorporated members of both high- and low-
status groups in this study, we expected the overall findings to be
consistent with our first two studies. That is, we expected individ-
uals high in SDO to react negatively to organizations composed of
low-status groups and positively to organizations composed of
high-status groups.
Hypothesis 3: As the SDO of members of high- and low-
status groups increases, they will be more attracted to orga-
nizations composed of high-status group members rather than
organizations composed of low-status group members.
Method
Participants
Potential participants were recruited, independently of race and gender,
from undergraduate and graduate business classes at a public university in
the southern United States. Men and women were included in the final
sample (N 159); their average age was 23 years.
Procedure
Participants were told that the primary purpose of this study was to ask
their assistance in evaluating a recruiting advertisement. Also, they were
told that a secondary purpose was to assess a new measure regarding
attitudes about themselves and others. After being recruited, participants
were e-mailed the link to the online survey, which contained our measures
and manipulations. First, participants completed the SDO measure. Then,
participants read and evaluated the recruiting materials. In this study, we
used the same recruiting materials as in Study 2. Participants reviewed the
recruitment letter and indicated their attraction to the organization and the
extent to which they would be willing to pursue a career with the organi-
zation. Finally, we asked participants to complete some additional
individual-differences and demographic measures.
Manipulation and Measures
Manipulation. We manipulated the gender composition of the organi-
zation using the same materials implemented in Study 2. We accomplished
random assignment using the online survey by asking participants to
indicate the last digit of their Social Security number. Those participants
with a Social Security number ending with the values zero through four
were assigned to read the recruitment letter in which the recruiters were
men (1 high-status composition), and those with a Social Security
number ending with the values five through nine read the letter in which
the recruiters were women (0 low-status composition).
SDO. Again, we used Sidanius, Pratto, Sinclair, and van Laar’s (1996)
SDO scale. The internal consistency was high (␣⫽.89).
Organizational attractiveness. We assessed organizational attractive-
ness with the same seven-item measure as in the previous studies. The
internal consistency was high (␣⫽.91).
Gender. Gender was used as a control variable in this study because
both men and women served as participants and because SDO has been
shown to vary by gender, as described above.
Hostile sexism. To control for prejudice against women, we used Glick
and Fiske’s (1996) 11-item hostile sexism scale. The internal consistency
for this scale was high (␣⫽.75).
Perceived similarity. We assessed perceived similarity with four items,
including “The employees at INDISCO would likely be similar to me” and
“The people who work at INDISCO seem just like me.” The internal
consistency for this scale was high (␣⫽.85).
Work experience. As in Study 2, work experience was used as a
control variable. Participants were asked to indicate the number of years
that they had worked full time.
Race. We controlled for race because, as in Study 2, the stimulus
names used in the manipulation were stereotypically White. The majority
of the sample was White (n 111), 22 were Hispanic, 17 were Asian, 4
were Black, and 5 did not indicate their race. We dummy coded race such
that 0 non-White and 1 White.
Results
Manipulation Check
The effectiveness of the gender composition manipulation was
assessed with the same item used in Study 2. Participants in the
low-status composition condition (M 5.44) were more likely to
agree that the organization was gender diverse compared with
2
We thank one of the anonymous reviewers for this suggestion.
Table 4
Results of Regression Analysis for Study 2
Step Variable R
2
R
2
1 Work experience 0.04 .01
Race
a
0.11
2 Work experience 0.04 .03 .02
Race
a
0.09
Status composition
b
0.13
3 Work experience 0.10 .11
*
.09
*
Race
a
0.05
Status composition
b
0.04
SDO 0.32
*
4 Work experience 0.02 .23
**
.12
**
Race
a
0.09
Status composition
b
1.37
*
SDO 0.01
Status Composition SDO 1.32
**
Note. N 49. SDO social dominance orientation.
a
Race was coded such that 0 non-White and 1 White.
b
Status composition was coded such that 0
low-status composition and 1 high-status composition.
*
p .05.
**
p .01.
403
WHEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER DO NOT FLOCK TOGETHER
those in the high-status composition condition (M 4.75),
t(155) 4.43, p .05. We also used an additional item to test the
effectiveness of the status composition manipulation, to which
participants responded to using a 7-point Likert-type scale (rang-
ing from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree). The item
was “I expect that at INDISCO there is likely a larger-than-usual
fraction of women employees.” A t test provided further evidence
that our manipulation was successful, t(155) 5.40, p .05;
participants in the low-status composition condition (M 5.05)
were more likely to agree that there was likely a larger than usual
fraction of female employees at INDISCO than were those in the
high-status composition condition (M 4.14). The results from
both manipulation check items indicated that the status composi-
tion of the organization was successfully manipulated.
Hypothesis Testing
The means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations for all
variables are reported in Table 5. We conducted a hierarchical
multiple regression analysis to test for our third hypothesis, which
stated that as the SDO of members of high- and low-status groups
increases, they will be more attracted to organizations composed of
high-status group members rather than organizations composed of
low-status group members (see Table 6 for results). The hierar-
chical regression was performed in four steps. In Step 1, organi-
zational attractiveness was regressed on the control variables:
gender, hostile sexism, work experience, perceived similarity, and
race. The results from this step were statistically significant (R
2
.39). In particular, providing general support for similarity–
attraction notions, perceived similarity was positively related to
organizational attractiveness. In Step 2, organizational attractive-
ness was regressed on status composition of the organization. The
results from this step were not significant (R
2
.39; R
2
.01).
Next, SDO was entered in the third step. The results from this step
also were not significant (R
2
.40; R
2
.01). Finally, to test for
our hypothesis, we entered the two-way interaction between SDO
and status composition in the last step. The results from this step
show, as predicted, that the interaction between SDO and status
composition was significantly related to participants’ ratings of
organizational attractiveness (see Figure 3; R
2
.42; R
2
.02).
Discussion
In this study, as in the two previous studies, we have demon-
strated that status composition and SDO interacted to determine
organizational attraction for members of both high- and low-status
groups. The effects of SDO and status composition emerged after
we controlled for perceived similarity, hostile sexism, gender,
work experience, and race. Thus, we are reasonably confident in
our assertion that those who are high in SDO react negatively
toward organizations composed of low-status groups and posi-
tively toward those organizations composed of high-status groups.
This result suggests that similarity–attraction notions, at least with
6.5
6.0
5.5
5.0
3.5
Low Status Or
g
anization Hi
g
h Status Or
g
anization
Organizational Attractiveness
4.0
4.5
High SDO
Low SDO
7.0
Figure 2. Interaction between status composition and social dominance orientation (SDO) on organizational
attractiveness for female participants in Study 2.
404
UMPHRESS, SMITH-CROWE, BRIEF, DIETZ, AND WATKINS
respect to demographic similarity, may not altogether explain why
prospective employees are attracted to organizations. On the basis
of social dominance theory, we proposed that, for those high in
SDO, organizational composition indicating the presence of high-
status group members attracts and organizational composition in-
dicating the presence of low-status group members repels, regard-
less of whether these high-SDO individuals are demographically
similar to those within these recruiting organizations.
Interestingly, as Figure 3 indicates, those who were low in SDO
seemed to be more attracted to organizations composed of lower
status groups (i.e., women) than to organizations composed of
higher status groups (i.e., men). A similar pattern is shown in
Study 2, although that result could be explained by demographic
similarity–attraction notions, such that our female participants who
were low in SDO were more attracted to an organization composed
of other women. The results from Study 3, however, may exclude
such demographic similarity–attraction notions by controlling for
gender. Therefore, it is possible that those who are low in SDO are
attracted to lower status groups, just as those who are high in SDO
show an opposite pull toward higher status groups. Yet we did not
find support for this logic in the first study. We propose that this
is a potentially important avenue for future research on SDO
Table 5
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for Study 3
Variable MSD1234 567 8
1. Status composition
a
0.48 0.50 .04 .06 .18
*
.03 .03 .03 .03
2. SDO 3.46 0.96 .10 .25
**
.25
**
.14 .04 .32
**
3. Organizational attractiveness 5.50 0.94 .04 .10 .05 .60
**
.10
4. Gender
b
1.58 0.49 .36
**
.11 .04 .10
5. Hostile sexism 3.61 0.75 .01 .11 .04
6. Work experience 3.87 2.95 .14 .01
7. Perceived similarity 4.36 0.95 .02
8. Race
c
0.70 0.46
Note. SDO social dominance orientation.
a
Status composition was coded such that 0 low-status composition and 1 high-status composition.
b
Gender was coded such that 1 male and 2 female.
c
Race was coded such that 0 non-White and 1
White.
*
p .05.
**
p .01.
Table 6
Results of Regression Analysis for Study 3
Step Variable R
2
R
2
1 Gender
a
0.01 .39
**
Hostile sexism 0.03
Work experience 0.13
Perceived similarity 0.61
**
Race
b
0.09
2 Gender
a
0.01 .39 .01
Hostile sexism 0.03
Work experience 0.13
Perceived similarity 0.61
**
Race
b
0.09
Status composition
c
0.04
3 Gender
a
0.04 .40 .01
Hostile sexism 0.05
Work experience 0.11
Perceived similarity 0.61
**
Race
b
0.06
Status composition
c
0.05
SDO 0.11
4 Gender
a
0.06 .42
*
.02
*
Hostile sexism 0.04
Work experience 0.13
Perceived similarity 0.62
**
Race
b
0.08
Status composition
c
0.58
*
SDO 0.25
*
Status Composition SDO 0.55
*
Note. N 149 –159 because of pairwise deletion of missing data. SDO social dominance orientation.
a
Gender was coded such that 1 male and 2 female.
b
Race was coded such that 0 non-White and 1
White.
c
Status composition was coded such that 0 low-status composition and 1 high-status composition.
*
p .05.
**
p .01.
405
WHEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER DO NOT FLOCK TOGETHER
because it may help explain why some organizations become
increasingly diverse by attracting job applicants low in SDO, who
are more likely to be members of low-status groups, whereas other
organizations struggle to create diversity.
In this study, we incorporated a broad measure of perceived
similarity as a control variable. As Table 6 indicates, the impact of
perceived similarity on organizational attractiveness seemed quite
strong. Thus, notions of similarity–attraction appear to be helpful
to understanding how organizations attract new members. In our
studies, we assumed that demographic composition is one aspect
of similarity that may be salient to individuals, but it is possible
that other factors impact similarity perceptions beyond demo-
graphics, such as values or career interests.
General Discussion
Our results demonstrate that SDO helps explain why some
individuals are turned off by demographic similarity, whereas
others are attracted to it. These asymmetric reactions to demo-
graphic similarity indicate that traditional similarity–attraction no-
tions may be insufficient for explaining how individuals react to
the demographics of prospective employers. Our results corre-
spond with Chatman and O’Reilly’s (2004) interpretation of their
findings suggesting that members of dominant and subordinate
groups exhibit discrepant similarity–attraction effects. Impor-
tantly, we discern an additional limitation of the similarity–
attraction effect by demonstrating that demographic similarity–
attraction depends on both group membership and SDO. We have
shown that the preference to associate with high-status group
members and status composition of an organization interact, such
that members of high-status and low-status groups who are high in
SDO, rather than those who are low in SDO, are more attracted to
organizations composed of high-status, dominant employees. The
empirical support we have obtained for our explanation is the first
in the diversity literature to point to the fact that the tendency to
derogate “inferior” groups produces reactions to demographic sim-
ilarity within organizations that are both positive (for members of
high-status groups) and negative (for members of low-status
groups).
Our work is a step toward answering Rynes’ (1991; Rynes &
Cable, 2003) call for a deeper understanding of why and when
organizational demographics impact the attraction of prospective
employees to organizations. Previous research in the recruitment
literature has produced equivocal results for attraction to demo-
graphic similarity within organizations, sometimes demonstrating
similarity–attraction effects (e.g., Young et al., 1997) and some-
times not (e.g., Cable & Judge, 1996; Perkins et al., 2000). Our
findings, along with those from Avery (2003), demonstrate that not
all prospective employees react to organizational demographics in
the same way and that individual-differences variables, such as
SDO, help explain these discrepant reactions. Future research
needs to move beyond simple similarity–attraction notions by
examining possible boundary conditions to the demographic
6.5
6.0
5.5
5.0
3.5
Low Status Or
g
anization Hi
g
h Status Or
g
anization
Organizational Attractiveness
4.0
4.5
High SDO
Low SDO
7.0
Figure 3. Interaction between status composition and social dominance orientation (SDO) on organizational
attractiveness for male and female participants in Study 3.
406
UMPHRESS, SMITH-CROWE, BRIEF, DIETZ, AND WATKINS
similarity–attraction relationship to understand how organizations
are demographically composed.
Theoretical Implications
We believe our most valuable theoretical contribution to the
organizational literature has been the introduction of social dom-
inance theory (e.g., Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) as a way to approach
the study of demographics within organizations. This is so because
the theory offers a systematic framework of hierarchy and power
that helps explain intergroup phenomena ranging “from simple
acts of mobbing in the playground, to mild forms of prejudice and
street gang violence, to instances of genocide” (Sidanius & Pratto,
1999, p. 57). In our case, we have used individual differences in
SDO to explain how prospective applicants react to the demo-
graphic composition within organizations. Although our studies
focus on race and gender, social dominance theory could aid in
explaining intergroup phenomena with regard to age, social class,
religion, national origin, or any salient group distinction, thereby
offering a parsimonious approach to studying group-based con-
flicts in organizations. For instance, using the theory, one could
posit that individuals who are high in SDO, regardless of race,
gender, or social class, will react differently to a job applicant as
a function of the job applicant’s membership within high- or
low-status groups, such that the relationship between SDO and the
applicant’s evaluation will be more negative if the applicant is a
member of low- versus high-status groups. By implication, if
recruiters are high in SDO, then they should be more likely to
select individuals from high-status groups than those from low-
status groups, independent of the status of their own group. Thus,
Blacks who are high in SDO would not be expected to recruit more
minorities than, for instance, Whites who are low in SDO.
Taking this scenario further, companies moving from a state of
homogeneity (composed primarily of White men) to diversity
(racial, gender, or otherwise) may be likely to initially attract
members of subordinate groups who are high in SDO, as these are
the low-status group members who are likely to be attracted to
organizations composed primarily of high-status group members.
Although the increasing presence of minorities should eventually
attract subordinate group members who are low in SDO, the
incumbent low-status group members who are high in SDO might
actually work to prevent the entry of subsequent low-status group
members into the organization. Should these later low-status group
applicants gain entry into the organization, high-SDO–low-status
group members might, at their worst, sabotage these newly admit-
ted low-status group members and, at their best, commit crimes of
omission (e.g., declining to offer information or help when
needed). In other words, organizations may find that they take one
step forward and two steps back when they endeavor to move from
homogeneity to diversity. The nature of the initially attracted and
admitted low-status group members might in itself become an
obstacle to further diversification.
Beyond considering similarity in terms of membership in social
groups, social dominance theory also suggests the potential im-
portance of the similarity of organizational members defined in
terms of SDO. As Sidanius and Pratto (1999) pointed out, some
organizations tend to support the allocation of positive resources to
members of dominant groups and negative resources to low-status
groups (constituting hierarchy-enhancing environments), whereas
other organizations (e.g., social welfare organizations) tend to
support the creation of equality among groups (constituting
hierarchy-attenuating environments). The implications of these
disparate tendencies across institutions could have important con-
sequences for individuals who become embedded within these
different social contexts. Using racism as a proxy for SDO, Van
Laar, Sidanius, Rabinowitz, and Sinclair (1999) demonstrated, for
instance, that hierarchy-enhancing college majors (e.g., account-
ing, economics, and finance) contained students with higher levels
of SDO than hierarchy-attenuating majors (e.g., social work, spe-
cial education, and nursing); when students’ SDO was congruent
with their major (e.g., high SDO and hierarchy-enhancing majors
or low SDO and hierarchy-attenuating majors) versus incongruent
(e.g., low SDO and hierarchy-enhancing majors or high SDO and
hierarchy-attenuating majors), students received higher grades.
This study suggests that the harmony between individuals’ level of
SDO and the hierarchical nature of their work environment could
lead to important work-related consequences (e.g., career advance-
ment and pay). Future research should examine such Context
Person interactions through the lens of social dominance theory.
Our findings suggest that some members of low-status groups
are more attracted to out-groups than to their own in-groups. Such
preference, or out-group favoritism, may be a function of those
high in SDO perceiving that the demographically similar organi-
zation (the one populated by women) was lower in status and,
therefore, not attractive. Status, in part, is a function of economic
outcomes, and evidence shows that wages are negatively related to
the proportion of women in an occupation (e.g., Glomb,
Kammeyer-Mueller, & Rotundo, 2004; Pfeffer & Davis-Blake,
1987). Those high in SDO may, explicitly or implicitly, perceive
that an organization composed of a number of women may not be
extrinsically rewarding compared with one composed of men.
Thus, out-group favoritism may stem from the desire for those
high in SDO to attain status through access to desirable economic
resources. Additionally, out-group favoritism is one way that
members of low-status groups may influence their own group’s
oppression within society. According to social dominance theory,
high- and low-status groups act in concert to create and maintain
social hierarchies. That is, low-status group members are not
necessarily passive observers of their own oppression. Instead,
they often “actively participate in and contribute to their own
subordination” (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, p. 43). One mechanism
for maintaining the hierarchical status of groups within society is
to make choices consistent with that hierarchical structure. Ac-
cordingly, members of low-status groups who were high in SDO
were more attracted to organizations composed primarily of dom-
inant members than to those composed mainly of subordinate
group members. Moreover, such out-group favoritism could, for
instance, manifest in the biased recruitment, selection, and evalu-
ation of members of high-status groups over members of low-
status groups. Future work should examine the impact of such
out-group favoritism by low-status group members who are high in
SDO, because its consequences could have far-reaching, debilitat-
ing effects on diversity within organizations.
Practical Implications
Although this research suggests the positive potential social
dominance theory provides scholars for better understanding the
causes and consequences of diversity within organizations, it of-
fers troubling implications for practitioners. Our results indicate
407
WHEN BIRDS OF A FEATHER DO NOT FLOCK TOGETHER
that job applicants, particularly those high in SDO, in fact do judge
potential opportunities, in part, based on the demographic compo-
sition of organizations. That is, Whites, men, and women who are
high in SDO are less attracted to organizations that are not com-
posed of traditional, high-status group members. Thus, achieving
diversity is not cost free; some prospective employees, even those
from underrepresented groups, are turned off by a workplace
populated by women and people of color. To the extent that those
who are turned off are members of underrepresented groups,
achieving organizational diversity is not only not cost free, it is
perhaps more complex than previously considered. Increasing
diversity is potentially hampered by the prejudices of high-status
group members as well as the prejudices of low-status group
members.
Limitations
Although we are energized by our findings and the theoretical
ground they break, we fully recognize that because of the exper-
imental nature of our studies the generalizability of our findings
must be questioned. For example, the characteristics of our sample
might limit the external validity of this research. In our studies, we
used junior and senior students from business classes, in part
because these are the very individuals whom recruiters often
attempt to attract. Nevertheless, future research should investigate
whether the relationships discovered in our studies are replicable
in other populations of prospective employees. In addition, we
used two manipulations of status composition in our studies (gen-
der and racial manipulations of status composition), but our results
may not hold with other characterizations of organizational status.
Although social dominance theory (e.g., Sidanius & Pratto, 1999)
predicts similar reactions regardless of the specific status group,
future studies should examine prospective employees’ reactions to
the presence of immigrants, Latinos, or other members of lower
status groups within organizations. Finally, we included manipu-
lations of the status composition of an organization and did not
incorporate manipulations of other characteristics of an organiza-
tion that might have allowed us to determine the impact of the
interaction between status composition and SDO relative to other
aspects of organizations that likely impact organizational attraction
(e.g., pay systems and job content). Future work should investigate
status composition and other organizational features that may
influence organizational attraction to examine the importance of
SDO and status composition relative to other organizational vari-
ables.
Conclusion
Our studies show that sometimes demographic similarity at-
tracts and sometimes it repels. This is so because prospective
employees view demographic similarity differently based on their
level of SDO and the relative status of their group within society.
When prospective employees support the hierarchy among groups
(i.e., are high in SDO), those from high-status groups are attracted
to demographic similarity, and those from low-status groups are
repelled by it. Thus, social dominance theory and similarity–
attraction notions together are needed to help explain how pro-
spective employees react to the demographics present within or-
ganizations. The current studies represent a starting point for
applying social dominance theory to research on intergroup con-
flict within organizations. This application has the potential to
make a major impact on organizational scholarship because the
theory supplies a systematic explanation for many group-based
concerns found in organizations, including the reactions of mem-
bers of both high- and low-status groups to members of low-status
groups.
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409
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Book
Part I. From There to Here - Theoretical Background: 1. From visiousness to viciousness: theories of intergroup relations 2. Social dominance theory as a new synthesis Part II. Oppression and its Psycho-Ideological Elements: 3. The psychology of group dominance: social dominance orientation 4. Let's both agree that you're really stupid: the power of consensual ideology Part III. The Circle of Oppression - The Myriad Expressions of Institutional Discrimination: 5. You stay in your part of town and I'll stay in mine: discrimination in the housing and retail markets 6. They're just too lazy to work: discrimination in the labor market 7. They're just mentally and physically unfit: discrimination in education and health care 8. The more of 'them' in prison, the better: institutional terror, social control and the dynamics of the criminal justice system Part IV. Oppression as a Cooperative Game: 9. Social hierarchy and asymmetrical group behavior: social hierarchy and group difference in behavior 10. Sex and power: the intersecting political psychologies of patriarchy and empty-set hierarchy 11. Epilogue.
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Chapter 1 Defining the Problem Chapter 2 Three Approaches to Demographic Analysis in Organizations Chapter 3 Research on Demographic Diversity Chapter 4 The Multiple Meaning of Demography Chapter 5 Understanding Vertical and Horizontal Pairs from a Demographic Point of View Chapter 6 Understanding Demographic Diversity in Groups Chapter 7 Understanding Demographic Diversity in Organizations Chapter 8 Demographic Diversity in the International Arena: The Chinese Case Chapter 9 An Integrative Framework of Demographic Diversity in Organizations Chapter 10 Managing Demographic Diversity Chapter 11 Directions for Future Research Chapter 12 Conclusion
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The entry of women into organizations and occupations previously closed to them changes the demographic composition of organizations in ways that can affect the monetary and psychic rewards available to both men and women. This article examines the effect of the proportion of women administrators on the salaries of both men and women in administrative positions in colleges and universities. Four theoretical perspectives that make predictions about the effect of the proportion of women are identified: economic competition and crowding, demographic group power, group interaction, and institutionalization. The results indicate that there is an inverse relationship between the proportion of women and the salaries of both men and women. This relationship holds both cross sectionally and longitudinally, and the effect is not completely linear. These results are inconsistent with both the demographic-group-power and group-interaction perspectives and provide some support for both the economic competition and institutionalization approaches.