Hekman, who is white, described the findings of research he conducted with his colleague, associate professor Maw Der Foo at Colorado: White male executives who show they value diversity by advocating the hiring and promotion of women and minorities are considered warm and competent by other managers.
Women leaders who exhibit the same behavior regarding promoting diversity are seen as selfish, devious, and cold, he said. Minority executives who do the same may be seen as incompetent.
The attitude among white male executives appears to be, "It's our house, you are a guest, and we control the guest list, so don't even think of adding anyone else," he said.
Approximately 9,500 attendees at the Convention Center, many of them academics in the field of management, arrived in Philadelphia on Friday for a conference that wraps up Tuesday and has included hundreds of presentations.
The conference's title, "The Power of Words," reflects how words affect the work world. One such word is diversity, the topic of a panel on Monday that included Hekman and three others.
On one hand, diversity brings new points of view and greater productivity, Wei Zheng, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, said. On the other hand, minority members of groups can be marginalized, interfering with productivity.
Her study of social networks shows that it is not the quantity of interactions but information control that affects multiethnic group productivity, she said.
Carliss Miller, an African American doctoral student at the University of Texas at Dallas, talked about her research into "crab-in-the-barrel" syndrome, in which, like captured crabs that pull each other back into the barrel or basket, members of minority or outsider groups "hold each other back" from succeeding.
The behavior is usually subtle, she told the group - minor incivility and gossip, with the intent to harm being ambiguous and easily deniable.
What happens in the workplace often mirrors what happened in childhood, said Nicole C. Jones Young, an African American doctoral student at the University of Connecticut.
African Americans who had been "tokens" in elementary or high school and became "tokens" in the workplace tended to be less welcoming when joined at work by a second member of their ethnic group, she said, based on her research. That's especially the case if the newcomer exhibits stereotypical behavior.
"Some tokens are interested in maintaining their unique status," she said.