Reversing the Queue: Performance, Legitimacy, and Minority Hiring

by Andrew Hill & David Thomas

Overview — While there has been a steady rise in the number of black executives in corporate America, the fact remains that white males have a persistent advantage in terms of access to managerial positions. This paper sets out to find out how a company's performance influences the hiring of minorities into management positions, and whether the presence of minorities in senior management positions affects the racial composition of the subordinate management team. Research, which focused on the corporate structure of the National Football League, was conducted by Harvard Business School doctoral candidate Andrew Hill and professor David Thomas. Key concepts include:

  • The higher a team's winning percentage prior to the hire, the more likely the team is to hire an African-American head coach.
  • The lower a team's winning percentage in the prior season, the more African-American subordinate coaches are likely to be hired.
  • A team with a black head coach hires about twenty-five percent more black subordinates than a team with a white head coach.

Author Abstract

Studies of minority hiring have found that poor-performing firms or firms in highly competitive contexts are more likely to hire minority candidates. However, most work has examined hiring for entry and mid-level positions, not senior management. Management positions differ in terms of the amount of uncertainty in identifying candidates qualified for the job; in the intensity of external evaluations of both managerial and firm performance; and in the level of accountability for that performance. Furthermore, the influence of senior minority managers on hiring practices may differ substantially, depending on where a manager sits in the firm's hierarchy. Examining hiring practices on coaching staffs of teams in America's National Football League, from 1970-2007, we find that better performing teams are less likely to hire minorities to fill lower-level and mid-level coaching positions (as predicted by prior literature on labor queues), but that such teams are more likely to hire minorities into leadership positions. We also find that minority head coaches hire more minorities for subordinate coaching jobs, but that the presence of a minority offensive or defensive coordinator (with a white head coach) is a significant, negative predictor of minority hiring in junior and mid-level positions.

Paper Information