Professor Explores "Difference" in Business

Ashleigh Shelby Rosette delves into race, class, and gender issues
December 16, 2015

Ashleigh Shelby Rosette grew up in rural, working-class East Texas. Race and class divided her community.

So it makes sense that, as an associate professor of management and organizations, she likes exploring inequities in the workplace. Workers, she’s observed, don’t always get out of the system what they put in.

“Generally I’ve been motivated to attain a better understanding of how racial and gender stereotypes and prototypes influence leader perceptions, inequitable relationships, and workplace discrimination,” she says.

Before working in academia, Rosette was a certified public accountant for Arthur Andersen, LLP. “I studied accounting because it came easily to me and I perceived it as a field in which there would always be high demand. It was a safe initial career choice.” But when she had the opportunity to pursue her Ph.D, she wanted to explore “the people in organizations, looking at the experiences with a micro-organizational behavioral lens—trying to understand individual perceptions and decisions better.” Differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, and class are not often discussed in a nuanced way in the business world. “Frequently, people tend to like sameness,” Rosette says. “So studying diversity, especially in organizational settings, can be perceived as risky.”

Now, as the first tenured African-American professor at Fuqua, she says her research goal is to increase awareness of these issues to help spur change. “That means more equality with regard to race and leadership positions and gender and leadership positions,” she says, adding that she would like to see “true meritocracy” instead of the myth of meritocracy.

Her work digs into the cultural characteristics that define leadership and the hidden systems of privilege within organizations. Her recent publications include “Are Male Leaders Penalized for Seeking Help? The Influence of Gender and Asking Behaviors on Competence Perceptions” and “Why Do Racial Slurs Remain Prevalent in the Workplace: Integrating Theory on Intergroup Behavior.”

“For many scholars, research is ‘me-search’,” she says. “You generate questions about those things that intrigue you, fascinate you, perplex you, and frustrate you. I have found this to be true for my own work.”