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Ethnicity and Differential Career Success

Wyatt, Madeleine (2011). Ethnicity and Differential Career Success. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Despite evidence that the representation of minority-ethnic employees in the workforce is improving, many are concentrated at lower organisational levels and experience more difficulties reaching senior positions than their majority-ethnic (i.e. white) colleagues (ONS, 2011). The percentage of minority-ethnic individuals entering the workplace is continually rising (ONS, 2011) meaning differential career success is a topic of increasing importance. However, thus far, very little research in organisational psychology has focused on ethnicity (Cox, Nkomo & Welch, 2001; Kenny & Briner, 2007). Therefore this thesis presents three studies designed to enhance our knowledge of minority-ethnic career experiences and the processes that contribute towards differential career success.

All studies took place in a large U.K. public sector organisation. The first study compared the causal attributions that minority-ethnic (n=20) and majority-ethnic (n=20) managers made when recalling significant positive and negative career experiences during semi-structured interviews. In the second study, template analysis was used to examine the interview transcripts for career experiences identified as important for career success by minority- and majority-ethnic managers. An important difference between the groups was their perceptions of informal organisational processes. Researchers have argued that political skill may enhance individuals’ power and control over informal processes (e.g. Ferris, Davidson & Perrewé, 2005) and have also suggested, but not yet tested, that minority groups may be disadvantaged in developing these skills (Ferris, Frink & Galang, 1993). Therefore, study three built on the findings of study two, and tested the ‘political skill deficiency’ hypothesis, by determining whether minority-ethnic employees (n=114) rated themselves lower on political skill than majority-ethnic employees (n=197), and whether this was associated with differential career success.

Overall findings suggested that there were important differences in the way minority- and majority-ethnic managers made sense of their career experiences. Minority-ethnic employees’ lower ratings of political skill were also associated with differential career success. Implications of these findings and practical initiatives to address differential career success are discussed in the final chapter, as well as directions for future research.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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