Disparity in the Promotion of African-American National Football League Coaches
One might say that despite diversity and efforts by the U.S. workforce to increase minority representation in leadership, organizational leaders remain predominantly white. I propose that performance-reward disparities (i.e., lesser rewards for equivalent performance) generates racial bias in leadership by suppressing the rate at which people of color, relative to equally-performing whites, are promoted to positions considered prerequisite for organizational leadership.
Data shows that over 1,200 National Football League coaches from 1985 to 2012 support this claim. I conclude that racial bias in organizational leadership is largely attributable to performance-reward disparity in lower level positions. The solution is more programs geared toward leveling the playing field, so that coaches of color are able to achieve the same opportunity at head coaching positions as the white counterparts.
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After the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and numerous policy initiatives were enacted to address racial disparities in employment, the U.S. workforce became much more diverse. Corporate America similarly implemented initiatives to reduce racial disparities in employment and to increase minority representation in corporate leadership (e.g., Thomas, 2004; Dobbin, 2009; Dobbin, Kim, and Kalev, 2011). Yet, leaders of large corporations continue to be predominantly white men.
Because racial disparities are systemic in nature (e.g., Pager and Shepherd, 2008; Reskin, 2012) interventions designed to increase representation at the highest levels will likely be ineffective unless they directly address performance-reward disparity the tendency of employers to reward white employees more than racial minorities for equal job performance (Castilla, 2008).
One hundred forty-six years ago, slavery was abolished and ever since, black and whites have been legally entitled to equal opportunities (Bertand, & Mullainathan, 2004). Although this may be the case, many believe that there really is not equal opportunity in the job market. A study of the job market was conducted and fictitious resumes were sent to the Boston and Chicago newspapers help wanted ads. To manipulate perceived race, the authors randomly assigned the resumes with African American names (Lakisha and Jamal) and white sounding names (Emily and Greg) (Bertand, & Mullainathan, 2004). The results of this study done was that white sounding names received 50 percent more call backs for interviews that the black names (Betrand & Mullianathan, 2004).
Not only are minorities the target of this discrimination in the job market but also when it comes to wages earned. An equilibrium search model explains that some employees have distaste for hiring minority workers and show this bias result in economic discrimination against these workers (Black, 1995). Black also explains that these unprejudiced firms that hire minority workers, they receive lower wages when compared to counterparts who don’t face this discrimination (Black, 1995). Between the years of 1990-2002, it was demonstrated that black coaches in the NFL were more successful than white coaches looking at regular season winning record. Despite the findings, black coaches were still less likely to be promoted through the ranks with the regularity of their white cohorts.
Minorities are getting a chance to be interviewed and hired as head coaches thanks to the Rooney Rule which was implemented in 2002 (Brown, 2007). Under the rule, an NFL team that has a head coaching vacancy must interview at least one minority candidate when making a new appointment to a head coaching position (Madden, 2008). What the rule provides is an opportunity for minority assistant coaches to get a chance to move up in the coaching ranks and become a head coach (Brown, 2007). This particular intervention is popularly credited for increasing the representation of racial minorities in the NFL’s head coaching ranks. From 1992 to 2002, minorities filled seven of 92 vacant head-coaching jobs (7.6 percent) but filled 17 of 87 vacant head-coaching jobs (19.5 percent) after the Rooney Rule was passed (Fox, 2015).
Another part of racial discrimination in the job market may not only be by choice, but also have to do with the economy. A study that was conducted by Arrow references two theories; Economic Theory and Rational Choice Theory (Arrow, 1998). Rational Choice Theory is defined as the individual actors act rationally by maximizing within the constraints imposed by the preferences, technology, and beliefs set by the organization (Arrow, 1998).
In other words, members of an organization act within the framework of the organization that is imposed by high authority or the way in which the organization is ran. Some general managers in the NFL are constrained by the authority that the owner has over them and might not be able to hire a minority coach due to this very reason. Owners though might look around the league and see the amount of success minority coaches are having in the league and it could change their views on how their organization handles the hiring process.
This study utilized explanatory research in the hope to better explain why something happens and also assessed a casual relationship between variables (Gratton & Jones, 2010). This study will be taking a sample of black and white head coaches and doing a content analysis.
The purpose of this qualitative research study was to look at head coaching positions in the NFL as it pertains to whites and those of color. I explored their demographic profile, attitudes and the implementation of policy to help even the playing field for coaches of color.
It has been documented that there is a tendency of racial minorities entering organizations in different positions than white employees (referred to as “sorting” into inferior entry points). Subsequently individuals of color are allocated to different position than their white counterparts (referred to as “stacking” in inferior positions, post entry). Even when racial minorities attain positions typically associated with relatively greater leadership prospects, they realize lesser subsequent career rewards and opportunities than whites do (e.g., McGuire and Reskin, 1993; Maume, 2012).
The effectiveness of the Rooney Rule has been very much contested as it pertains to its ability to diversify leadership. The main reason is that not all franchises have fully complied. For example, the Dallas Cowboys hired Bill Parcells in 2003, after conducting a brief telephone interview with a single minority candidate. The Detroit Lions were also penalized for hiring Steve Mariucci as head coach in 2003 without interviewing a minority candidate. Due to the uneven compliance and lack of procedural focus to impose hiring requirements, we see fewer individuals of color in head coaching positions.
There is clear evidence of racial bias in promotion prospects for NFL assistant coaches that has persisted for over two decades despite a high-profile intervention designed to advance the candidacies of minority coaches. Although there is no concrete evidence as to why, white coaches seemingly are being allocated to head coaching positions more frequently that their African-American counterparts. One can easily infer that disparities in promotions reduces the rate at which minorities enter leadership candidate pools by being allocated to coordinator positions, which is the typical stepping stone to a head coach position.
Not only are minorities the target of discrimination in the job market but also when it comes to wages earned. An equilibrium search model explains that some employees have distaste for hiring minority workers and show this bias result in economic discrimination against these workers (Black, 1995). Black also explains that these unprejudiced firms that hire minority workers, they receive lower wages when compared to counterparts who don’t face this discrimination (Black, 1995). Between the years of 1990-2002, it was demonstrated that black coaches in the NFL were more successful than white coaches looking at regular season winning record. Despite the findings, black coaches were still less likely to be promoted through the ranks with the regularity of their white cohorts.
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