Tag Archives: implicit bias

Do Women Advance in Careers More Slowly than Men?

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

Men received 15% more promotions than women, according to a Catalyst Benchmarking Survey.

Similar numbers of “high potential” women and men were selected for lateral moves to other parts of the business.
However, men but not women, received promotions after the career-developing lateral moves.

Nancy M. Carter

Nancy M. Carter

Women’s developmental lateral moves were substitutes for actual career advancement, suggested INSEAD’s Hermina Ibarra with Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva of Catalyst.
Similarly, women receive social accounts – or explanations – as substitutes for salary increases.

Virginia Valian

Virginia Valian

Hunter College’s Virginia Valian suggested that implicit bias may explain men’s performance is consistently overrated while women’s accomplishments are underrated by coworkers, bosses and themselves, .
Resulting discrepancies in opportunity accrue over time to create large gaps in advancement, she asserted.

In addition, women are typically evaluated in relation to a “masculine” standard of leadership, reported Catalyst’s earlier research.
Three consequences of this rating standard undermine leadership and advancement opportunities:

  • Extreme Perceptions, in which women are attributed behavioral excesses, such as “toughness” or “niceness,”
  • High Competence Threshold, when women leaders are held to higher standards and receive lower and fewer rewards than men,
  • Competent but Disliked, when women may be perceived either as “competent” or “likeable” but not both.
Phyllis Tharenou

Phyllis Tharenou

Family structure can accelerate or slow career progress in unexpected ways.
Both “post traditional” mothers who have employed spouses, and “traditional” fathers whose wives are engaged in childcare only, more rapidly advanced in private sector careers than women and men with other family configurations, reported Phyllis Tharenou of Flinders University.
Somewhat surprisingly, non-parent women and men, and unmarried fathers  advanced more slowly in their careers.

Employment disruption, such as maternity leave or layoff, did not impair career advancement for women and men, but the industry sector was associated with differing rates of career advancement.

Alice Eagly

Alice Eagly

In a separate analysis, Tharenou noted that the strongest predictors of advancing in management were managerial aspirations and masculinity.
Women were more likely to advance when they received career encouragement and when organizational hierarchies included both women and men.

To explain these career advancement rate discrepancies, University of Massachusetts’ Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli of Wellesley suggested that women encounter a career labyrinth rather than a glass ceiling.

Linda Carli

Linda Carli

Differences in career advancement rates may be narrowed by sponsorship rather than mentorship, argued Catalyst and Center for Talent Innovation.
Male advocates can support female sponsees by focusing attention on the challenges women face at work and can advocate for organizational processes and structures that normalize equivalent competence in women and men.

  • What type of “career encouragement” enable women to advance in careers at a rate similar to men?

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Managerial Gender Bias in Granting Flex Time, Backlash Against Men Flex-Time Seekers

Managers hold gender biases in granting flex time requests, and most employees inaccurately anticipate managers’ likelihood of approving these proposals, found Yale’s Victoria Brescoll with Jennifer Glass of University of Texas-Austin and Harvard’s Alexandra Sedlovskaya.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Men across job levels were more likely than women to receive flex time to pursue career advancement or to address family issues, found their survey of 76 managers.

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Men in high-status jobs were more likely receive approval for career development, and men in low-level jobs tended to get flex time for family issues.
Both groups were more likely than women to receive requested work schedule accommodations.

Women in low-status jobs with childcare requirements were among the least likely to receive accommodations from their managers.
In addition, all employees tended to overestimate the likelihood of receiving a flexible work schedule and underestimate “backlash” after the request.

Women in high-status jobs requesting flextime for career advancement were most likely to expect their requests would be granted, yet they had a lower approval rate than men in high-status jobs.
Conversely, these schedule-accommodated men were least likely to believe they would receive flextime for career development reasons, yet they often received approval.

Brescoll suggested that men in high-status positions who are granted flex time to pursue career development achieve more rapid career advancement.
In contrast, women in high-status roles who request flex time for the same purpose may “…be suspected of hiding the true reason for their request, or they may be viewed as less deserving of further training because it’s assumed that they’ll leave their jobs in the future.”

Women in the workplace encounter a “gendered wall of resistance” (schedule accommodation denials due to gender), whereas men face “status-specific resistance” (objections based on reason for flex time request), according to Brescoll.

Employees’ lack of awareness of managerial bias in granting flextime coupled with realistic concern about negative consequences of workplace accommodation requests can lead to lower productivity, unnecessary turnover and persistent social problems like child poverty and lack of upward mobility for low-wage workers.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In fact, volunteers attributed more “feminine” traits (weakness, uncertainty) and fewer “masculine” traits (competitiveness, ambition) to male leave requestors, found Laurie Rudman and Kris Mescher of Rutgers University.

Kris Mescher

Kris Mescher

Rudman and Mescher asked volunteers of both genders and diverse ethnic backgrounds to evaluate fictional vignettes concerning men who requested a 12-week family leave to care for a sick child or an ailing mother.

Participants attributed poor organizational citizenship (“bad worker stigma”) to men who requested family leave and recommended organizational penalties (e.g., demotion, layoff, ineligibility for bonus) for them.

When men were viewed with the “feminine stigma” of “weakness” and other traditionally-feminine characteristics, they were more likely to incur organizational penalties.

Joseph Vandello

Joseph Vandello

Jennifer Bosson

Jennifer Bosson

The impact of these stigmas on men seeking flexible work arrangements was confirmed in related research by University of South Florida’s Joseph Vandello, Vanessa Hettinger, Jennifer  Bosson, and Jasmine Siddiqi.

Their experimental study found that volunteers assigned lower job evaluations, less masculine and more feminine traits to employees who requested flex time than those with traditional work arrangements.

Jasmine Siddiqi

Jasmine Siddiqi

However, evaluators judged requestors as “warmer” and more “moral,” suggesting that flexibility-seeking employees may be more well-liked and judged as a desirable work colleague.

-*How do you counteract implicit biases in approving workplace flexibility arrangements?

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Paradoxical Bias against Innovative Ideas in the Workplace

Jennifer Mueller

Jennifer Mueller

Managers’ implicit attitudes and cognitive “mindset” during proposal presentations can bias organizational decision-makers against innovative solutions without their awareness, according to University of San Diego’s Jennifer Mueller with Shimul Melwani of University of North Carolina and Cornell University’s Jack Goncalo.

Shimul Melwani

Shimul Melwani

Mueller and team pointed out a paradox:  Most managers say they want innovative solutions to workplace issues from team members, yet often reject these creative ideas to reduce risk and uncertainty.

The team asked volunteers to rate a running shoe equipped with nanotechnology that improved fit and reduced potential to develop blisters.

Jack Goncalo

Jack Goncalo

They “primed” some participants toward increased uncertainty in this task by telling them that there were many potential answers to a problem.
In contrast, they cued another group with reduced uncertainty by instructing them that a problem required a single solution.

When volunteers who said they favored creative ideas experienced uncertainty, they preferred concepts of practicality on an implicit word association test, and associated “creativity” with negative concepts including “vomit,” “poison” and “agony.”

Uncertain participants also rated the shoe as significantly less creative than those in the more structured condition, suggesting that were less able to recognize a creative idea and held an unconscious “negative bias against creativity.”

Cheryl Wakslak

Cheryl Wakslak

In more recent work, Mueller collaborated with University of Southern California’s Cheryl Wakslak and Viswanathan Krishnan with University of California, San Diego to expand the idea assessment scenario with two ideas that were independently rated as “creative,” and two ideas judged “not creative.”

Vish Krishnan

Vish Krishnan

Mueller, Wakslak and Krishnan cued some participants to consider “why” in evaluating creative ideas, to evoke broad, abstract thinking, and “high-level construal.
They instructed other volunteers to think about “how” creative idea works, to stimulate narrow focus on practical details and logistics, and “low-level construal.”

Although participants in both groups rated two non-creative ideas similarly, those who adopted a “high-level construal” or a “why” mindset recognized creative ideas more often than those using the “how” mindset.

As an idea’s degree of creativity increases, uncertainty also increases about its feasibility, acceptability, and practicality.
This increased risk may reduce evaluators’ willingness to accept and advocate for an innovative idea, even when objective evidence is presented to validate a creative idea.

To mitigate the paradoxical rejection of creative ideas, organizational leaders can ask team members to consider “why” when creative evaluating proposals to enable “big picture” thinking and a broader construal level.

-*How do you encourage innovative solutions to work challenges?

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