Our Research

Sexism, Racism, and Parent-ism

I am interested in documenting various subtle and interpersonal ways in which women, African Americans, and non-parents are discriminated against in organizations, especially academia. For example, my colleagues and I recently published a paper demonstrating that even in academic fields in which women are well represented as faculty, a gender disparity exists such that, across ranks, women are less likely than men to be colloquium speakers (Nittrouer, Hebl, Ashburn-Nardo, Trump-Steele, Lane, & Valian, 2018). Given the importance of giving such talks for promotion and tenure, this disparity can be a roadblock for women’s success. Although documenting more overt forms of discrimination (e.g., salary differences) is important, I am more interested in the more covert ways that these “isms” manifest themselves, as it is harder to detect and regulate subtle biases in the workplace. We are currently investigating racial and gender biases in the context of students’ and public perceptions of faculty.

In addition, some of my recent work has focused on the “moral imperative” of parenthood. Specifically, men and women who violate the expected norm of parenthood elicit moral outrage (anger, disgust, disapproval) and are consequently stigmatized (Ashburn-Nardo, 2017). We are currently conducting more research to understand the antecedents, consequences, and moderators of biases regarding voluntarily childfree women and men.

Intragroup Biases

When people think of prejudice and discrimination, they usually think of outgroups as the source. However, I have documented various forms of intra-group bias and discrimination; that is, people being biased against members of their own ingroup or engaging in behavior that often seems to counter their ingroup’s best interests. For example, roughly half of African Americans implicitly favor Whites over Blacks on the racial Implicit Association Test (Ashburn-Nardo, 2010), and this bias predicts their choice of work partner (Ashburn-Nardo & Johnson, 2008; Ashburn-Nardo, Knowles, & Monteith, 2003). In addition, African Americans sometimes see other African Americans as low in perceived racial identity when they associate closely with Whites or lack ingroup stereotypical characteristics, and this has consequences for intragroup treatment (Johnson & Ashburn-Nardo, 2014). We are currently investigating the implications of intragroup racial identity denial in the workplace.

Reducing Prejudice and Improving Climate

Much of my work has focused on individual strategies to reduce prejudice, such as interpersonal prejudice confrontation (i.e., communicating one’s disapproval of prejudice directly to the perpetrator). Understanding the conditions under which people will confront is always of interest to me. My colleagues and I have developed (Ashburn-Nardo, Morris, & Goodwin, 2008) and tested (Ashburn-Nardo, Blanchar, Petersson, Morris, & Goodwin, 2014) a model outlining various obstacles to confrontation, and we are continuing to investigate confrontation questions with student and faculty collaborators.

 

Organizations can also do things to reduce prejudice and improve climate for members of underrepresented groups. We are currently looking at ways that organizations improve sense of belonging and identity safety via their website content.

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