Category Archives: Working Women

Working Women

Confident Cluelessness = The Dunning-Kruger Effect + Ignorant Bliss

Stav Atir

Stav Atir

Most people overestimate their own expertise, and do not recognize their own incompetence.
It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect and has been demonstrated for people’s overestimates of their skills in grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, and financial acumen.

Emily Rosenzweig

Emily Rosenzweig

Cornell’s Stav Atir and  Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane asked volunteers if they were familiar with concepts like centripetal force and photon as well as fictitious terms including plates of parallax, ultra-lipid, and cholarine.

About 90% of participants claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fake concepts, and people who thought they were most knowledgeable also said they recognized more of the meaningless terms.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Atir and Rosenzweig concluded that poor performers lack insight about their lack of skill because they ”don’t know what they don’t know.”

Another study by University of California San Diego’s Elanor Williams, Justin Kruger of NYU, and Cornell’s David Dunning asked volunteers to complete a logical reasoning task, an intuitive physics problem, a financial acumen challenge.

Elanor Williams

Elanor Williams

Some participants achieved perfect scores and expressed confidence in their answers, yet those who achieved no correct answers expressed the same degree of confidence as the most able performers.

Both high and low achievers made judgments based on intuitive “rules,” so they felt confident based on having a clear rationale.
Williams’ team concluded, “Rule-based confidence is no guarantee of self-insight into performance.”

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Another example is high confidence in financial acumen among people who filed for bankruptcy, suggesting that their confidence was not supported by their financial management skills.

More than 25,000 people rated their financial knowledge, completed the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority with the U.S. Treasury.
Of these, 800 respondents said they filed bankruptcy within the previous two years.

Bankruptcy filers achieved financial knowledge scores in the lowest third of respondents, but they rated their knowledge more positively than financially-solvent respondents.
Nearly a quarter of the recently bankrupted respondents gave themselves the highest possible rating, whereas only 13 percent of other respondents were equally confident.

Deborah Keleman

Deborah Keleman

Even 80 professionally-credentialed physical scientists at top universities provided a number of inaccurate purpose-driven (“teleological”) explanations about “why things happen” in the natural world.

Joshua Rottman

Joshua Rottman

When these professional scientists provided explanations under time constraints, they were twice as likely to endorse inaccurate rationales, reported Boston University’s Deborah Kelemen, Joshua Rottman, and Rebecca Seston.

Rebecca Seston

Rebecca Seston

Scientists were equally likely as humanities scholars to endorse inaccurate arguments despite most physical scientists’ rejection of purpose-driven explanations for natural phenomena.

These results suggest that “teleological propositions are a default explanatory preference” among humans, and could explain their presence in myth and religion across cultures.

As a result, most people hold a positive view of their capabilities even when faced with contrary evidence.
However, some groups, such as women, may hold an unrealistically modest view of capabilities despite affirming feedback.
These biases in self assessment point to the importance of realistic recalibration of confidence, aligned with consensual feedback.

-*How do you minimize the risks of “Clueless Confidence”?

-*How can systematic underestimates of competence be reduced to increase “Realistic Confidence”?

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Useful Fiction: Optimism Bias of Positive Illusions

Least Skillful Performers May Have Greatest Self-Delusions of Skill: Pointy-Haired Boss Effect

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Comparative Rankings May Reduce Gender Bias in Career Advancement

Iris Bohnet

Iris Bohnet

An “evaluation nudge” is a decision framing aid that may reduce biased judgments in hiring, promotion, and job assignments, according to Harvard’s Iris Bohnet, Alexandra van Geen, and Max H. Bazerman.

Alexandra van Geen

Alexandra van Geen

They recommended that organizations evaluate multiple employees simultaneously rather than each person independently.
This approach differs from “Stack Ranking” (“Rank and Yank”), advocated by GE’s Jack Welch and critiqued by many.

Multiple simultaneous evaluations are frequently used for hiring decisions, but less frequently when considering employee candidates for developmental job assignments and promotions.

Max Bazerman

Max Bazerman

Bazerman and Sally B. White, then of Northwestern with George F. Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon demonstrated preference reversals between joint and separate evaluation.

George F. Loewenstein

George F. Loewenstein

Lack of comparison information in separate evaluation typically leads people to rely on internal referents as decision norms. These internal criteria may be biased preferences, according to Princeton’s Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Dale T. Miller of Stanford.

Dale T. Miller

Dale T. Miller

Lack of comparative referents also can lead evaluators to rely on easily calibrated attributes, found University of Chicago’s Christopher K. Hsee.
Both of these mental shortcuts can systematically exclude members of under-represented groups.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Another problem is the “want/should” battle of emotions and preferences, outlined by Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel of Notre Dame, with Duke’s Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni in their provocatively titled article, “Negotiating with Yourself and Losing.”

Ann E. Tenbrunsel

Ann E. Tenbrunsel

They argue that the want self” tends to dominate when deciding on a single option because there’s less information and less need to justify the decision.
In contrast, the more analytic “should self” is activated by the need to explain decision rationales.

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Bohnet’s team asked more than 175 volunteer “employees” to perform a math task or a verbal task, then 554 “employer” evaluators (44% male, 56% female) received information on “employees’” past performance, gender, and the average past performance for all “employees.”

“Employers” were paid based on their “employees’’” performance in future tasks, similar to managerial incentives in many organizations.
Consequently, “employers” were rewarded for selecting people they considered effective performers.
Based on information about “employee” performance, evaluators decided to:

  • “Hire” the “employees,” or
  • Recommend the “employees” to perform the task in future, or
  • Return “employees” to the pool for random assignment to an employer.
Keith E. Stanovich

Keith E. Stanovich

The Harvard team found that “employers” who evaluated “employees” in relation to each other’s performance were more likely to select employees based on past performance, rather than relying on irrelevant criteria like gender.

Richard F. West

Richard F. West

In contrast, more than 50% of “employers” evaluated each candidate separately without reference to other “employees,” selected under-performing people for advancement.
Only 8% of employers selected under-performers when comparing “employees” to each other, and multiple raters for multiple candidates also tended to select the higher performing “employees.”

Team Bohnet suggested that people have two distinct and situation-specific modes of thinking, “System 1” and “System 2,” illustrated by University of Toronto’s Keith E. Stanovich and Richard F. West of James Mason University.

Keith Stanovich-Richard West System 1- System 2 ThinkingThese cognitive patterns can lead evaluators to select incorrect decision norms, leading to biased outcomes.

Decision tools like the “evaluative nudge” decision-framing can reduce bias in hiring and promotion decisions, leading to a more equitable workplace opportunity across demographic groups.

-*What other evaluation procedures can reduce unconscious bias in performance appraisal and career advancement selection processes?

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Defining Elusive Elements of “Executive Presence”

Fewer researchers have empirically investigated behaviors and characteristics associated with “Executive Presence” than the number of consultants offering recommendations on how to develop this quality and its potential association with career advancement.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Communication, “Gravitas”, and Appearance were associated with “executive presence” in a study by Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation

Gavin Dagley

Interviews with 34 professionals, conducted by Perspex Consulting’s Gavin Dagley and Cadeyrn J. Gaskin, formerly of Deakin University, uncovered more elements than Hewitt’s proposed triad of qualities.

Caderyn Gaskin

They found that most executives described as having “presence” were men, reinforcing Hewitt’s assertion that women interested in career advancement should focus on conveying executive presence attributes to observers.

Dagley and Gaskin identified ten characteristics including those mentioned by Hewitt.
The first five characteristics are based on first impressions during initial contact:

  • Status and reputation, similar to “gravitas” discussed by Hewitt,
  • Physical appearance, also mentioned by Hewitt,
  • Confidence,
  • Communication ability, included in Hewitt’s “presence” triad,
  • Interpersonal engagement skills.

The final five attributes derive from evaluations over time during repeated contacts:

  • Interpersonal integrity,
  • Values-in-action,
  • Intellect and expertise,
  • Outcome delivery,
  • Coercive power.

These qualities combine in different ways to form four presence “archetypes”:

  • Positive presence, based on favorable impressions of confidence, communication, appearance, and engagement skills plus favorable evaluations of values, intellect, and expertise,
  • Unexpected presence, linked to unfavorable impressions of confidence plus favorable evaluations of intellect, expertise, and values,
  • Unsustainable presence combines favorable impressions of confidence, status, reputation, communication, and engagement skills plus unfavorable evaluations of values and integrity,
  • “Dark presence” is associated with unfavorable perceptions of engagement skills plus unfavorable evaluations of values, integrity, and coercive use of power.
Philippe De Backer

Philippe De Backer

Another typology of executive presence characteristics was identified by Sharon V. Voros and Bain’s Philippe de Backer.
They prioritized elements in order of importance to purportedly related life outcomes:

  • Focus on long term, strategic drivers,
  • Intellect,
  • Charisma, combining confidence, intensity, commitment, plus demeanor of care, concern and interest in others,
  • Communication skills,
  • Passion,
  • Cultural fit,
  • Poise,
  • Appearance.

Most people assume a relationship between “executive presence” and career “success,” even if the causal connection has not been demonstrated.

Fred Luthans

Fred Luthans

However, University of Nebraska’s Fred Luthans and Stuart Rosenkrantz with Richard M. Hodgetts of Florida International University investigated this relationship by observing nearly 300 managers from various levels at large and small mainstream organizations as they:

  • Communicated,
  • Engaged in “traditional management” activities, including planning, decision making, controlling,
  • Managed human resource issues.
Richard Hodgetts

Richard Hodgetts

Communication and interpersonal skills elements of “presence,” coupled with intentional “networking” and political acumen enabled managers to rapidly advance in their organizations.

Luthans and team identified these managers as “successful” leaders because they advanced more rapidly than “effective” managers, measured by participants’ organizational level compare with their organizational tenure.
In contrast, “effective” managers demonstrated greater managerial skill than “successful” managers, but were not promoted as quickly.

“Effective” managers spent most time managing human resource activities including:

  • Motivating/reinforcing,
  • Managing conflict,
  • Hiring/staffing,
  • Training/developing team members,
  • Communicating by exchanging information,
  • Processing paperwork.
Stuart Rosenkrantz

Stuart Rosenkrantz

Their subordinates reported more positive attitudes and behaviors than subordinates of “successful” managers for:

  • Job satisfaction,
  • Organizational commitment,
  • High team performance quality,
  • High team performance quantity.

Differences in advancement and subordinate reactions to “successful” and “effective” managers appear related to differing managerial behaviors.

Fred Luthans-Effective Managers“Successful” managers spent little time in managerial activities, but invested more effort in networking, socializing, politicking, and interacting with outsiders.
Their networking activities were most strongly related to career advancement but weakly associated with “effectiveness.”

Few managers were both “successful” and “effective”:  Only about 10% of volunteers were among the top third of both successful managers and effective managers.
These findings can lead to discouragement and cynicism, noting that effective managers who support employee performance may not be rewarded with advancement as rapidly as managers who prioritize their career over that of their employees.

These studies suggest that gravitas, communication, and political acumen may explain the gender difference for perceived “executive presence.”
Women who aspire to organizational advancement seem to benefit from cultivating both gravitas and proactive networking to complement communication and interpersonal skills.

-*Which behaviors and characteristics are essential to “Executive Presence”?

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Acknowledge Potential Employer “Concerns” about Gender, Attractiveness to Get Job Offer

Although attractive people enjoy many advantagesattractive women applying for jobs in traditionally male jobs face a double disadvantage: gender and appearance.

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

The “beauty is beastly effect” is a hiring bias favoring men or less attractive women for “masculine” jobs, first described by Yale University’s Madeline E. Heilman and Lois R. Saruwatari.

Lois Suruwatari

Lois Suruwatari

They found that attractiveness was an advantage for men seeking managerial and non-managerial roles, but attractive women had an advantage only when seeking lower-level, non-managerial roles.

Michelle Hebl

Michelle Hebl

Attractiveness and gender can be considered a “stigma,” just as disability, obesity, and race.
Rice University’s Michelle R. Hebl and Robert E. Kleck of Dartmouth College reported that people in these categories can reduce hiring biases by acknowledging their “stigmatizing” characteristic during the interview.

Robert Kleck

Robert Kleck

In addition, women who proactively addressed the employers potential concern about gender or appearance in a traditionally male role were rated higher in employment suitability in a study by University or Colorado’s Stefanie K. Johnson and Traci Sitzmann, with Anh Thuy Nguyen of Illinois Institute of Technology.

Stefanie Johnson

Stefanie Johnson

These candidates were assumed to possess more positive “masculine” traits than other female candidates and evaluators were less likely to penalize these women for behaving in contrast to traditional gender role norms.

Traci Sitzmann

Traci Sitzmann

Attractive women’s pre-emptive communication favorably influenced rater’s evaluations of employment suitability.
This proactive approach buffered the impact “hostile sexism” while increasing “benevolent sexism’s” link to employment suitability ratings.

-*How effective you found “pre-emptive objection-handling” in workplace negotiations?

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Women May Undermine Salary Negotiations with Excessive Gratitude

Negotiators and poker players know the value of limiting full self-disclosure in words and non-verbal expressions.

Andreas Leibbrandt

Andreas Leibbrandt

However, some women undermined their salary negotiations by revealing their gratitude for a salary that exceeded their expectations in an experiment by Monash University’s Andreas Leibbrandt and John A. List of the University of Chicago.

John List

John List

Participants were women applying for administrative assistant jobs with a posted wage of $17.60 USD per hour.

Researchers told some volunteers that the wages were “negotiable,” and these women negotiated their pay upward by a ratio of more than 3 to 1.
This result echoes previous findings that women frequently do not negotiate unless given explicit permission, and consequently, have lower salary offers than those who negotiate.

Leibbrandt and List tested this hypothesis by not mentioning negotiation to the remaining participants, and these women typically provided “too much information” by remarking that the posted wage “exceeds my expectations. I am willing to work for a minimum of $12.”

Edward E. Jones

Edward E. Jones

Though this approach likely leads to lower salary, it could be considered strategic ingratiation.
This negotiation approach that can take several forms, according to Duke University’s Edward E. Jones:

-Self-presentation (self-enhancement or “one-down” humility, providing favors or gifts),

-Flattery (“other-enhancement” either directly or ensuring word-or-mouth report of positive yet credible comments),

-Agreement (opinion-conformity, non-verbal matching-mimicry).

The ingratiator’s intent in this study may have been to enhance the future working relationship, but could cause the negotiation partner to question the applicant’s judgment, qualifications, and confidence.
The longer term impact in workplace settings is to delay salary increases because the candidate appeared satisfied with the original offer.

Steven H. Appelbaum

Steven H. Appelbaum

However, “strategic ingratiation” may result in promotion or pay increase, according to Concordia University’s Steven H. Appelbaum and Brent Hughes.

They found that effective use of “strategic ingratiation” was influenced  by situational and individual factors including:

  • Machiavellianism,
  • Locus of control,
  • Work task uniqueness.
Jeffrey Flory

Jeffrey Flory

In another of Leibbrandt and List’s randomized field studies, collaborating with Concordia colleague Jeffrey Flory, they found that among nearly 2,500 job-seekers, men did not wait for permission to negotiate when no statement was made about salary discussions.

In fact, male participants said they prefer ambiguous salary negotiation norms.
Despite women’s general hesitance to negotiate without an invitation, women advocated for more favorable salaries at about the same rate as men when invited.

The team extended these findings by analyzing nearly 7,000 job-seekers with varying compensation plans.
In “competitive work settings,” salary negotiation was typically expected, and men stated a preference for these work environments.

Leibbrandt, List and Flory concluded that women accept “competitive” workplaces provided “the job task is female-oriented” and the local labor market leaves few alternatives.

Women looking for better salary outcomes benefit from proposing their “aspirational salaries” rather than waiting for permission to negotiate.
In addition, women negotiators can achieve better outcomes when they offer moderate expressions of gratitude and avoid revealing their “reserve” salary figure.

-*In what work situations have you benefitted from applying ‘strategic ingratiation’?

-*To what extent have expressions of gratitude in negotiation undermined bargaining outcomes?

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Male Peer Raters Discount Women’s Expertise in Science, Engineering

J Stuart Bunderson

J Stuart Bunderson

Problem-solving work groups and individual career development benefit from accurate recognition and deployment of expertise.

Nancy DiTomaso

Nancy DiTomaso

People who are perceived as experts by team members, regardless of their actual expertise, have a number of career advantages, found Washington University’s J. Stuart Bunderson:

  • Greater influence in group decision-making,
  • More opportunities to perform,
  • Great opportunity for team leadership roles.
D Randall Smith

D Randall Smith

In addition, peer evaluations of expertise frequently contribute to individual rewards, compensation, and advancement, noted Rutgers’ Nancy DiTomaso, D. Randall Smith and George F. Farris with Corinne Post of Pace University and New Jersey Institute of Technology ‘s Rene Cordero.

Melissa Thomas-Hunt

Melissa Thomas-Hunt

Teams benefit when they accurately identify and use group members’ expertise because they perform more effectively and produce higher quality work products, found Cornell’s Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt, Tonya Y. Ogden of Washington University, and Stanford’s Margaret A. Neale.

Aparna Joshi

Aparna Joshi

However, women in science and engineering do not have equal opportunities to fully use their expertise in work groups, and to receive commensurate rewards, reported Penn State’s Aparna Joshi.

George Farris

George Farris

She obtained peer ratings and longitudinal research productivity data for 500 scientists and engineers and found that women’s technical expertise was undervalued by male colleagues in peer ratings.

Rene Cordero

Rene Cordero

Male and female raters assigned different importance to education when evaluating team members’ expertise.
Women’s ratings were correlated with the target person’s education level, but males evaluators considered educational attainment less than male gender in assigning highest ratings for expertise.

As a result, women’s highest ratings went to those with the highest education level, whereas men’s top evaluations were assigned to other men, no matter their education level.

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

Women received significantly lower expertise evaluations than men, and men evaluated highly educated women more negatively than female raters who assessed their peers.

These findings suggest that male peers discount women’s educational achievements and are unlikely to effectively use women’s expertise, to the detriment of team work output as well as individual recognition.

-*How do you ensure that your expertise is recognized and applied in work groups?


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When Do Women Talk More than Men?

Women talk more than men.
Women talk less than men.

-*Which is true?

It depends.

Kay Deaux

Kay Deaux

Context and expectations of the individual and others determine when females talk more than males, according to NYU’s Kay Deaux and Brenda Major of University of California Santa Barbara.

Brenda Major

Brenda Major

Participants equipped with digital “sociometers” recorded identities of people nearby and talk volume during a work collaboration project, and during lunchtime social conversations in a study by Harvard’s Jukka-Pekka Onnela and Sebastian Schnorf, with David Lazer of Northeastern and MIT colleagues Benjamin N. Waber and Sandy Pentland.

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

During the work project women talked significantly more than men, except when groups included seven or more people.
Larger group size suppressed women’s verbal contributions to the project.
In addition, women sat closer to other women in these groups.

Sebastian Schnorf

Sebastian Schnorf

In contrast, during social conversations, women talked the same amount as men, and even more than men when the group was large.
As a result, group size seems to affect women’s verbal participation in groups depending on the task focus vs. social focus.

Matthias Mehl

Matthias Mehl

This finding supports earlier reports of equal verbal participation by women and men by University of Arizona’s Matthias R. Mehl, collaborating with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis and University of Connecticut’s Nairán Ramírez-Esparza.
Together with Richard B. Slatcher of Wayne State and University of Texas’s James W. Pennebaker.
This group analyzed voice recordings from more than 390 participants, and concluded that women and men both spoke about 16,000 words per day.

David Lazer

David Lazer

In addition, large group social settings seemed to enhance women’s verbal participation, in contrast to the opposite effect in collaborative work projects, found Onnela’s team.
The strongest difference in gender participation related to relationship strength and group size.

Scott E. Page

Scott E. Page

Contributions from all members of diverse work groups are required to produce the largest number and most innovative solutions, according to Loyola University’s Lu Hong and Scott E. Page.
They found that diverse work groups produce superior solutions compared with homogenous groups, even if groups were composed of uniformly top performers.

In fact, a group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is most closely associated with:

  • Proportion of females in the group,
  • Average social sensitivity of group members,
  • Equal conversational turn-taking.
Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

This “collective intelligence factor” is not related to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Sandy Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Diverse groups, including women, can most effectively produce innovative solutions when all participants contribute divergent views.
Women who  consciously increase verbal participation establish visibility and professional credibility, while contributing to improved group performance.

-*How do you determine your degree of verbal contribution in work groups?


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