The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Networks of Organizational Leadership: Measuring Race, Gender, and Color among Elites

Picture of Research Team

From left: Kevin Young (political science), Brendan O'Connor (computer science), and Seth Goldman (communication)

Our project examines the diversity of powerful organizations, including large global corporations, think tanks and a variety of international organizations. We utilize new data collection and network analysis to answer two key questions about organizational leadership. First, how diverse are these leaders in terms of gender, race, color and educational background? Second, has this diversity changed over time, and if so how?  Existing studies on diversity within large organizations are simple counting exercises, and usually just of boards and CEOs of corporations. In contrast, our project seeks to model the broader organizational ecology, wherein organizations are linked together via network ties, to investigate how this emergent structure points to complex forms of social stratification within the upper echelons of society. A key challenge of this research, which the support of the Institute of Diversity Science is helping us surmount, has to do with the measurement of diversity itself. Classifying individuals by race and gender categories is complex and based on social perceptions, not underlying properties, and the categories for race in particular are subject to wide variety of interpretations. This is made more challenging because the scope of our analysis is global, and not based solely in the US or any one country. We are surmounting these challenges through a variety of multi-coder and crowd-sourcing strategies. The pilot data advanced through this project will support grant applications to the NSF and the Russell Sage Foundation.