OB Plenary Session Discussion Questions

Tom Kochan
George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management
Professor of Work and Employment Research
Co-Director, MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research
Office: E62-334
(617) 253-6689

The Productivity-Wage Gap
My questions all relate to what I call the need to build a New Social Contract for Work (click for an overview of my planned presentation). I define a Social Contract as “the mutual expectations and obligations workers, employers, and their communities and societies have for work and employment relationships.” These “expectations and obligations” can be numerous but for the purposes of our session I will focus on pay.

Three questions are the central “hypotheses” that drive my work on how to build a new social contract:

  1. How do we encourage more firms to adopt the “high road” (high productivity/high wage) strategies needed to reduce the productivity-pay gap?
  2. How do we rebuild worker bargaining power in ways (with what old and new sources of power?)  needed to close the productivity-pay gap?
  3. How can we better specify what we need from each of the key stakeholders in society (employers, workers and their representatives), educational institutions, and government)and get them to work together in ways that will achieve and sustain a new social contract?

Forrest Briscoe
Professor of Management
Frank & Mary Smeal Research Fellow
Smeal College of Business
Penn State University 450 Business Building University Park, PA 16801
Phone: 814-865-0746 Fax: 814-863-7261 fsb10@psu.edu

  1. How do political beliefs affect inequity in the workplace?
    When we think about political ideology in connection with inequality, we often focus on politicians and government policies. But managers, CEOs, and whole workforces – even in profit-seeking firms! – can tilt left (liberal) or right (conservative). Do those leanings affect inequality within firms? Basic differences between liberal and conservative worldviews suggest they may. Liberals tend to see the reduction of income and status inequalities between demographic groups as an important goal for society, while conservatives tend to be more accepting of inequalities as long as rewards are based on merit and performance goals are met. Understanding how such ideological differences affect workplace inequality may be increasingly relevant in our current era of social-media-fueled partisanship.
  2. How do the political leanings of managers and employees affect their firm’s progress on reducing inequality? For example, between 2001 and 2013, S&P 500 firms with liberal-leaning employees increased their ranks of female executives faster than firms with conservative-leaning employees, net of other measurable factors such as industry and geographic location. Firms with liberal-leaning employees also adopted equal benefits for LGBT workers at a faster clip.
  3. How do front-line managers’ political leanings lead them to respond differently to the same organizational HR policies? Two recent studies of professional service firms found liberal-leaning managers were associated with a lower gender gap in bonuses and promotion rates, compared with conservative-leaning managers, net of other measurable factors.
  4. How do managers’ political leanings influence the attention they receive from social advocacy groups aiming to reduce inequality? Studies suggest liberal-leaning firms are more likely to be targeted by such groups, and liberal employees appear more willing to cooperate or collaborate with them. Recently, liberal executives have also publicly participated in protests about government policies related to workforce diversity.Should we incorporate such conservative-liberal differences in the design of HR policies or other efforts to reduce workplace inequalities? For example, liberals may be more responsive to designs focused on including managers in the planning stages of diversity initiatives – while conservatives may be more responsive to organizational mandates which specify objective bonus and promotion rules. Or could such thinking lead to greater partisan conflict in the workplace?

George Banks, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Management
The Belk College of Business
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Inequity in the Experiences of Leaders
In the area of leadership, there is empirical evidence that indicates inequality occurs between demographic groups in certain contexts. Findings from past research show that, in some cases, members of particular groups are promoted at different rates and ultimately have different experiences as leaders. For example, research has shown that stock analysts often write more favorable reviews of publicly traded companies led by men than comparable companies led by women. As leaders of today’s organizations are a critical driver of the well-being of countless stakeholders, addressing inequality in the area of leadership is important for both academics and practitioners.

Future research should focus on investigating not only areas when such inequality exists, but interventions that could be implemented to mitigate inequalities. For example, the implementation of the Rooney Rule by the National Football League (i.e., a policy requiring league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs) has led to many success stories, such as the hiring of Superbowl winning coach Mike Tomlin. However, the rule has also been ineffective or missed used at times. Further empirical research is needed across organizational contexts to understand how and why inequality can occur, what interventions may be effective, as well as contingency issues that might be important to consider.

The questions we will focus on include:

  1. In what ways does inequality exist in the experiences of today’s organizational leaders?
  2. What types of interventions can be implemented and evaluated to mitigate inequality in the experiences of leaders?
  3. What moderating factors influence the effectiveness of the interventions designed to combat such inequality?

Jeff Pollack
Associate Professor
Management, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Department
Poole College of Management
NC State University
2801 Founders Drive, Campus Box 7229
Raleigh, NC 27695-7229
804.397.0818 phone

Inequity and Entrepreneurship
As new and emerging businesses represent a critical component of developed, as well as developing, nations’ economies how inequity in entrepreneurship is address is of importance to academics as well as practitioners.

  1. How can we address biases, implicit and explicit, in the business pitch context to ensure that all entrepreneurs have equal access to critical resources?
  2. What is the role that new and emerging ventures can play in addressing pay inequity at work?
  3. How can we enable stakeholders who are critical to new and emerging ventures to provide support based on merit and propensity for success versus biased criteria (e.g., similarity, status, demographics)?

Janaki Gooty
Associate Professor
Department of Management, Belk College of Business
University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Phone: (704) 687-7694

The Gender/Race Wage Gap
The gender wage gap could be conceptualized in terms of two broad fairness principles of equality versus equity. Pay equality refers to equal pay for equal work, whereas, pay equity refers to parity in pay in jobs traditionally dominated by women. Across both categories of fairness, equality and equity, women lag behind men in both professions dominated by men as well as women[1].

The questions below are broadly grounded in the justice and leadership literatures.

  1. Women of color are further behind in terms of both pay inequality and inequity. Do our current theories of justice and fairness adequately explain the work experiences of this group? How do procedural and distributive justice perceptions emerge and how are they reconciled when one’s identity is of being an “outsider”?
  2. Does having more women and women of color in policy making positions advance closing the gap? What types of theory and research are needed to understand this effect?
  3. What types of mentoring and training programs need to be in place so women in general are in leadership succession lines? Leadership research has long established that leaders seek and mentor “similar to me” protégées. How would leaders be trained to combat this effect in helping mentor women of color in particular?
  4. The challenge of equality in pay is further exacerbated in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine). What types of initiatives are required in these disciplines to foster women’s careers?

[1] These statements are based on data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and white papers by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.