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Selection BIAS: Stereotypes and discrimination related to having a history of cancer.


Although great strides have been made in increasing equality and inclusion in organizations, a number of stigmatized groups are overlooked by diversity initiatives, including people with a history of cancer. To examine the workplace experiences of these individuals in selection contexts, we conducted 3 complementary studies that assess the extent to which cancer is disclosed, the stereotypes associated with cancer in the workplace, and discrimination resulting from these stereotypes. In a pilot study, we surveyed 196 individuals with a history of cancer (across 2 samples) about their workplace disclosure habits. In Study 1, we explored stereotypes related to employees with a history of cancer using the framework outlined by the stereotype content model. In Study 2, we used a field study to assess the experiences of job applicants who indicated they were "cancer survivors" (vs. not) with both formal and interpersonal forms of discrimination. This research shows that cancer is disclosed at relatively high rates (pilot study), those with a history of cancer are stereotyped as being higher in warmth than competence (Study 1), and the stereotypes associated with those who have had cancer result in actual discrimination toward them (Study 2). We discuss the theory behind these findings and aim to inform both science and practice with respect to this growing workplace population.

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