Student Experience Research Network Blog

Currently, there are large gender gaps in representation within corporate settings. For example, while women make up 47% of the total workforce, they comprise of only 25% of managerial roles. A paper by Katherine Emerson and Mindset Scholar Mary Murphy looks into potential psychological mechanisms behind disparities in behavior and representation within organizations.

The researchers found that women expected to be negatively stereotyped by companies that they perceived to endorse a fixed mindset. Companies endorsing a fixed mindset may convey that they are “looking for top talent” or that they expect only a portion of their employees will be able to succeed, for example. In the study, women’s concern that they would be negatively stereotyped caused them to both mistrust and disengage from the company. However, this negative cycle did not occur when the company used language that endorsed a growth mindset.

These findings suggest the influence that even subtle cues can have on individuals’ perceptions and performance in the workplace. Therefore, using language that suggests that the organization endorses a growth mindset can be a first step in helping to recruit, retain, and advance staff from underrepresented groups. However, in order to truly promote inclusion of employees from all groups, organizations must enact this theory in their daily actions, creating a culture that reflects the belief that all employees have the ability to grow and succeed.

Many individuals and corporations are working to promote positive environments and to use diversity, equity, and inclusion policies that are rooted in science. More specific details from this study can be found in our brief. For further reading, check out this article featuring Mindset Scholar Carissa Romero talking about what effective, evidence-based diversity initiatives look like and watch this TED talk about why diversity is imperative to solve complex problems.

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