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The number of scientists with ethnic minority backgrounds doesn’t currently reflect the number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds employed in the types of settings I/O psychologists work in, or the general population.

This discrepancy must be modified to ensure equality in the workplace, as well as pave the way to a more inclusive, multi-cultural environment where race is no longer considered an issue. And who better to do that than a fully representative I/O psychology work force? I/O Psychologists study social justice, equality and prejudice very thoroughly during their studies, and use the related skills they learn during their careers to everyone’s benefit.

Social justice in the workplace has been studied thoroughly by academics from a range of fields, and applies particularly to I/O psychology as an integral part of their work.

The connection between fair or unfair treatment and performance, commitment and satisfaction at work has been studied thoroughly – some have looked at the effects of social justice, while others emphasize how justice-related judgements occur. This study directly affects the work of I/O psychologists, and, in turn, how organizations are structured and organized. When best practices are based on the latest research in social justice, it creates a more effective organization.

In the Journal of Applied Psychology, Andrew Morris looked at the evaluation of leaders - a topic that is becoming more important for I/O psychologists. Morris suggests that the racial composition of a leader’s group affects how the leader’s effectiveness is judged (I/O At Work, 2015). And with the lack of equality in management positions, could this be affecting the US’s entire workforce to the negative?

Sendhil Mullainathan recently wrote a piece in the New York Times about racial discrimination. He points to arguments postulating that African-Americans may earn less income on average in comparison to whites due to problems with schooling in the neighborhoods where they were raised, not due to race.

Mullainathan also claims that many racial judgements are unconscious. For example, he points to a study examining race and employment in 2009. Actual people were sent to apply for low-wage jobs. They had identical resumes and were provided with the same interview training. The African-American applicants with no criminal record were offered positions at a similar rate as white applicants that had a criminal history. Mullainathan puts this down to unconscious bias – a controversial topic.

The Humanitarian Side of a PhD in I/O Psychology

Sometimes we forget that we´re not alone in the desire to move in a certain direction in our careers or other areas of our lives. You might have a desire to do humanitarian work, but be surrounded by people who have different goals and motives.

Though there aren´t as many humanitarians in this field as other fields, there is one organization doing some interesting work in this area.

Global Organization for Humanitarian Work Psychology (GOHWP)

GOHWP has some specific goals, which include:

1. Developing, promoting, and supporting the humanitarian work psychology field and its participants, by:

  • Driving academic research, applied projects, education, and training efforts;
  • Promoting representation from local communities across the globe; and
  • Assisting in the development, adoption, and observance of best practices within the field of humanitarian work psychology.

2. Promoting and engaging in humanitarian activities as organizational psychologists, including contributing to poverty reduction and to the empowerment of marginalized groups.

3. These are some of the values that the organization aspires to support in the world and to operate by in their own conduct:

  • Social Justice: procedural, distributive, and interactional justice;
  • Self-Determination: an opportunity and power to direct one’s life;
  • Respect for Diversity: respect and acceptance of unique social identities;
  • Accountability: working with and being accountable to those who are subjected to inequality, injustice, and poverty;
  • Empowerment: supporting and facilitating marginalized groups to participate fully in society.

Their Work

Organizational psychologists have worked to enhance human welfare since the beginning of this discipline in the 19th Century, but here are some of the most recent events, which specifically led to the establishment of the discipline of humanitarian work psychology and this organization:


The electronic mailing list known as “Povio” was established by Stuart C. Carr at Massey University’s Poverty Research Group. Its aim is connect organizational psychologists interested in “pro-social” applications of organizational psychology.


In April of this year, there was a Symposia entitled “Organizational psychologists and world poverty: Our roles and obligations” (Reichman et al., 2008) and “The poverty of psychology: Can we reduce it?” (Carr & MacLachlan, 2008). They were held at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) in San Francisco, California.

During these symposia, organizational psychologists and professionals from other disciplines, including Walter Reichman, Michael Frese, Virginia Schein, Stuart C. Carr, Malcolm MacLachlan, and Frank Landy discussed organisational psychology’s role in poverty reduction. These discussions led to calls for the establishment of a “Global Task Force on Organizational Psychology for Development” (Carr et al., 2008), which occurred in 2009..


Repeated calls for a task force were answered by a gathering of over ten concerned professionals from several different countries at University College, London in June, 2009.

This meeting created a temporary working group, to “foster the practice, promotion, and development of HWP by unifying an international community focused on aligning pro-social agendas and decent work with local needs” (Thompson, 2009, p.29).

At this meeting, the term “humanitarian work psychology” was used for the first time. Three people: Mary O’Neill Berry (USA), Stuart C. Carr (New Zealand), and Leo Marai (Papua New Guinea), were elected to lead the task force that became known as the Global Task Force for Humanitarian Work Psychology (GTF).


PHD Degree Admission: I/O Industrial & Organizational Psychology


The GTF made a concerted effort to raise awareness about the application of organizational psychology to poverty reduction and decent work. It was featured in symposia at multiple international conferences organized by various groups, including the European Association for Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP), the International Association for Applied Psychology (IAAP), the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the Psychological Association of the Philippines, the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS), and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

The GTF and the discipline were also featured in the prominent organizational psychology textbook by Frank Landy and Jeffrey Conte (2010) and a Global Special Issue on Psychology and Poverty Reduction, coordinated by Stuart Carr, out of Massey University in New Zealand.

The first courses prominently featuring humanitarian work psychology were held at Massey University in New Zealand, the University of Bologna in Italy, the University of Barcelona in Spain, and Elon University in the United States.

The GTF began interfacing with policymaking bodies by making a formal statement at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010.

Information about the latest progress that has been made can be found on GOHWP´s blog.