You’re Not Colorblind. You Just Need to Remove the Blindfold.

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Here are some highlights from this week's On Hiring and Diversity newsletter. If you'd like to subscribe, sign up here.

The view from the top might be better, but being in charge is no picnic.

Being tapped for a leadership post is an ego rush, but being the boss isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, writes Allison Vaillancourt in a recent Vitae column on what to expect in your first administrative role. If you think you’ll be free to set your own agenda and pick your own team, think again, she writes. You’ll still have a boss, she says. In fact, you’ll have multiple overlords, since you’ll now be beholden to those “above you and below you on the organizational chart,” she adds. You’re also apt to be stuck with “a team you inherited from your predecessor,” Ms. Vaillancourt writes. All that can make for a stressful transition, she says. Here are 10 more things you should know before you make the jump, she says.

But first you have to get the nod. That may be harder for women, who are still underrepresented at the top: A mere “5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, only 15 percent of executive officers at those companies, less than 20 percent of full professors in the natural sciences, and only 6 percent of partners in venture-capital firms” are women, according to a Scientific American article by the Harvard professor Francesca Gino. That’s bad for business, as studies note. So what’s holding women back? Sexism is undoubtedly a factor, she writes. Yet Ms. Gino’s research with colleagues suggests there’s more to it than that. She notes that women are reluctant to climb the ladder — and not because they’re less ambitious or afraid they can’t hack it. They’re anxious about the potential trade-offs involved, much more so than men are. Of course, who can blame women for feeling conflicted when they’re still expected to shoulder more household and family duties, and make compromises that men don’t often have to make?

Her findings jibe with those of Hilke Brockmann, a sociologist at Jacobs University, in Germany, who observed that women in high-level positions were less content than their male peers and valued flex time over more money. That’s because women have more life goals than men do, Ms. Gino says. When she and her team asked various groups of men and women to record their life priorities, the goals people listed “varied, from getting married, having children, or working out regularly, to finding a well-respected job and becoming rich,” but women always had a longer list, she says. Of course, socialization might explain that, too.

Regardless of what’s behind the phenomenon — whether sexism and societal gender norms, some inherent gender difference, or a combination of all three — the studies point to a way to entice more women into high-level posts, Ms. Gino says. Well-qualified women might be wary of scaling the ladder, she says, but “building in more breathing space for leadership positions, and allowing for flexible career paths” could persuade more men and women to reach for the top rungs and “experience the happiness that can come with them,” she concludes.

Why you should quit pretending you don’t see race or gender.

According to a recent Slate column, the only thing people who profess to be gender-neutral or colorblind can’t see is their own bias. There’s a reason for that, and it’s called “unconscious bias,” suggests Elizabeth Weingarten, director of New America’s Global Gender Parity Initiative and a senior fellow in the Better Life Lab program. Yet who hasn’t heard a friend or colleague say they see everyone the same way? Last year Ivanka Trump tried to paint her father in a better light by insisting that he doesn’t see race or gender, she recalls. Given his history, however, that claim seemed disingenuous and signaled that the Trumps might have “blinders” on when it comes to the negative treatment of women and people of color in American society, she says. While there’s no sin in seeing gender or color — it’s impossible not to — refusing to see them is a weak excuse for ignoring patterns of racial and gender inequality, Ms. Weingarten suggests. There’s a lot of research to back that up, she adds, citing Colleen Ammerman, director of the Gender Initiative at Harvard Business School: “If we believe that we’re blind to identity, that absolves us of any responsibility or imperative to reflect on ways that we might be bringing bias to the table.” It can even make us more prone to discriminate, Ms. Weingarten notes: For example, a study by Northwestern University researchers concluded that the more objective people think they are, the more they make biased choices, she says.

It shouldn’t be all that surprising, then, that those who see it as central to their identity — academics, engineers, scientists, journalists, lawyers — might have a hard time owning up to their bias, Aubrey Blanche, the global head of diversity and inclusion at the technology firm Atlassian, told Ms. Weingarten: “It requires an adjustment of their self image. … If you fundamentally believe that it’s your hard work that got you somewhere, that’s a really difficult emotional journey to admit that might not be entirely true. … People hold onto their belief in objectivity to avoid an idea that can essentially provoke a crisis of self.”

But if we’re going to improve diversity and inclusion on American campuses and in the workplace, Step 1 should be to stop insisting we don’t see color or gender, and start consciously looking for ways to counter our natural biases in the admissions and hiring and promotion processes, she concludes.

Two jerks are better than one at the negotiating table …

Charm has its benefits, but when it comes to negotiations, it may count for less than we think, according to new research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. It turns out, negotiations go best when both parties have similar personalities — even if they’re “jerks,” a New York magazine article on the study says.

… But two offers aren’t.

You’d think going into a negotiation with multiple offers would give you the upper hand, but according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, it could actually lead you to lower your asking price.

Race, gender, and student debt.

Many college students in the United States are graduating with hefty loan burdens that weigh them down for years. But how bad is it, and which groups are most affected? Priceonomics, a data-analysis and marketing company in San Francisco, decided to find out. Its analysts crunched student-loan data from a LendEDU survey of more than 1,400 college grads ages 25 to 54, and broke down the data by gender and race. According to their analysis, the average student with debt finishes college nearly $40,000 in the red, but not all groups are equally encumbered, a post on the Priceonomics blog reports. Strikingly, white men and Asian men leave college with the largest loans, despite getting more financial help from their parents, on average, than other groups do, the data show. White men had 33 percent more debt than their female peers did, in fact. Hispanic/Latina women finished college with the least debt, and women on the whole were less leveraged than men, the analysis shows. Yet women disproportionately said that their outstanding loans had made it tougher to keep up with daily living expenses, the post notes. About two-thirds of the respondents said their loans hurt their ability to save for retirement, the post concludes.

Speaking of struggling to make ends meet ...

They’d love to teach there, but they can’t pay the rent.

Administrators at universities in the Bay Area say some candidates are rejecting job offers because they’re worried about finding a place to live, Nell Gluckman reports in a Chronicle article (for subscribers). It’s easy to see why, she writes: With the area’s rents among the highest in the nation, and when a family of four is considered "low-income" in San Francisco if it earns $105,350 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, how can a professor who earns $70,000 a year hope to find affordable housing?

Questions & comments?

Have a suggestion for the newsletter, or a tip or story idea to share? Send it to me at or @GabrielaMontell.

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