Women or minorities who promote diversity in the workplace are penalized by their peers but white men who do so are not, a new study says.

The authors of the study, University of Colorado professors Stefanie K Johnson and David R Hekman, surveyed 350 executives about diversity-valuing behaviors.

Questions explored “whether they respected cultural, religious, gender and racial differences, valued working with a diverse group of people, and felt comfortable managing people from different racial or cultural backgrounds”.

The researchers said they were surprised by their findings, which were published in the Academy of Management Journal.

They found, for example, that when white men promoted diversity in the workplace, it did not improve how bosses rated their performance and competence. When women and non-white executives promoted diversity in the workplace, their evaluations from bosses were worse.

“For all the talk about how important diversity is within organizations, white and male executives aren’t rewarded, career-wise, for engaging in diversity-valuing behavior, and non-white and female executives actually get punished for it,” Johnson and Hekman wrote in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

#research: Women and minorities penalized for promoting workplace diversity