Race in the corner office

May 8, 2009
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Just when one hopes racial stereotypes are in retreat, along comes another study suggesting otherwise.

Now weâ??re told that black CEOs with â??baby facesâ?? fare better than black CEOs with more "mature"-looking faces when it comes to results at Fortune 500 companies.

However, the Northwestern University study showed, the opposite was true for white CEOs. Those with mature faces ran the better Fortune 500 companies.

Why? Study co-author Robert Livingston looks to long-known research showing baby-faced people are considered less threatening. In other words, study participants were more comfortable with baby-faced black CEOs because they looked more disarming.

Whatâ??s a baby face? One thatâ??s round, and has a larger forehead and full cheeks. Baby faces also have large ears, full lips and a small nose.

Is the study balderdash? Or does it reflect a subconscious racism still out there in the work place? Is there value in these studies at all?
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  • This reminds me of a standup comedy bit by Jerry Seinfeld. I think it goes something like this:
    How about that seedless watermelon, huh? What an invention right? I mean, scientists are actually working on this! Other scientists devote their lives to fighting cancer, aids, heart disease and these guys are saying, 'no, I'm focusing on melon.' Sure, millions are dying needlessly but this (spits out watermelon seed), this has got to stop!

    I'd like to point out that I am NOT implying that focusing on overcoming racial issues is a waste of time. I just think there are better ways of doing it. Why aren't these researchers finding out how a person's upbringing has an impact on their tendency towards racial stereotypes? What about their exposure to certain types of media (television, music, etc.)?

    I just don't see a lot of value in knowing that baby-faced black CEOs stand a better chance at success than their mature-faced counterparts. I will grant the fact that being aware of the issue may allow us to overcome it, but past that, I just don't see it.
  • Doug,

    forget baby face over more mature face. lets say that some people are being
    judge not based on can they do the work but based on gender and skin color
    today in 2009.

    so we can't get serious issues taken care of because those who are qualified,
    smart enough, and would love the opportunity to help find solutions to these
    serious problems are not getting the chance because they are being judged on
    the color of their skin or their gender.
  • Norm,

    As you so quickly deleted my previous post, perhaps you, like so many others, are quick to assume racism. In fact, as many need to be reminded, racism is when one wants to discount, hate, and hold back all those in a particular category, as in the case of all whom have black skin.

    What I cited had nothing to do with racism but was stricly a social issue. The word ax is used in black culture instead of the word ask. It is a problem for those that run call centers, for example, to attempt to correct because it is extremely difficult to change the culture. It is a problem society deals with because of culture and it can hold people back.

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  2. I believe that is incorrect Sir, the people's tax-dollars are NOT paying for the companies investment. Without the tax-break the company would be paying an ADDITIONAL $11.1 million in taxes ON TOP of their $22.5 Million investment (Building + IT), for a total of $33.6M or a 50% tax rate. Also, the article does not specify what the total taxes were BEFORE the break. Usually such a corporate tax-break is a 'discount' not a 100% wavier of tax obligations. For sake of example lets say the original taxes added up to $30M over 10 years. $12.5M, New Building $10.0M, IT infrastructure $30.0M, Total Taxes (Example Number) == $52.5M ININ's Cost - $1.8M /10 years, Tax Break (Building) - $0.75M /10 years, Tax Break (IT Infrastructure) - $8.6M /2 years, Tax Breaks (against Hiring Commitment: 430 new jobs /2 years) == 11.5M Possible tax breaks. ININ TOTAL COST: $41M Even if you assume a 100% break, change the '30.0M' to '11.5M' and you can see the Company will be paying a minimum of $22.5, out-of-pocket for their capital-investment - NOT the tax-payers. Also note, much of this money is being spent locally in Indiana and it is creating 430 jobs in your city. I admit I'm a little unclear which tax-breaks are allocated to exactly which expenses. Clearly this is all oversimplified but I think we have both made our points! :) Sorry for the long post.

  3. Clearly, there is a lack of a basic understanding of economics. It is not up to the company to decide what to pay its workers. If companies were able to decide how much to pay their workers then why wouldn't they pay everyone minimum wage? Why choose to pay $10 or $14 when they could pay $7? The answer is that companies DO NOT decide how much to pay workers. It is the market that dictates what a worker is worth and how much they should get paid. If Lowe's chooses to pay a call center worker $7 an hour it will not be able to hire anyone for the job, because all those people will work for someone else paying the market rate of $10-$14 an hour. This forces Lowes to pay its workers that much. Not because it wants to pay them that much out of the goodness of their heart, but because it has to pay them that much in order to stay competitive and attract good workers.

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  5. It is sad to see these races not have a full attendance. The Indy Car races are so much more exciting than Nascar. It seems to me the commenters here are still a little upset with Tony George from a move he made 20 years ago. It was his decision to make, not yours. He lost his position over it. But I believe the problem in all pro sports is the escalating price of admission. In todays economy, people have to pay much more for food and gas. The average fan cannot attend many events anymore. It's gotten priced out of most peoples budgets.

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