Tag Archives: promotion

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

Based on their research, they recommended that organizations evaluate multiple employees  simultaneously rather than each person independently.
This approach contrasts widespread practices like “Stack Ranking” (“Rank and Yank”), advocated by GE’s Jack Welch and critiqued in a previous blog post .

This approach is 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, provided the original demonstration of 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, though these may be biased or stereotyped preferences, according to Princeton’s Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Dale T. Miller of Stanford.

Dale T. Miller

Dale T. Miller

Additionally, lack of comparative referents can lead evaluators to rely on easily calibrated attributes, found University of Chicago’s Christopher K. Hsee.
Both of these shortcuts can lead to biased decisions, which may systematically exclude members of under-represented groups.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Still 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 itheir 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 them to perform the task in future, or
  • Return to “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 varied cognitive patterns can lead evaluators to select incorrect decision norms, leading to biased outcomes.

As a result, 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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Do Women Advance in Careers More Slowly than Men?

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

Men received 15% more promotions than women, according to Catalyst’s 2008 Benchmarking Survey, similar numbers of “high potential” women and men  selected for lateral moves to other parts of the business.

Nancy M. Carter

Nancy M. Carter

However, men but not women, received promotions after the career-developing lateral moves.
INSEAD’s Hermina Ibarra with Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva of Catalyst suggested that women were offered these developmental lateral moves in lieu of advancement.
Similarly, women seem to receive social accounts – or explanations – as substitutes salary increases, noted in a previous blog post.

-*Has this career advancement discrepancy continued?

Virginia Valian

Virginia Valian

More data are required, but unarticulated and often subconscious ideas about gender continue to affect behavior and evaluations of others, as noted in previous blog posts.

Hunter College’s Virginia Valian related this implicit bias to men’s advantage of being consistently overrated while women 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 2007 research outlining three predicaments that can undermine leadership and advancement opportunities:

  • Extreme Perceptions, in which women are perceived as enacting extreme behaviors, such as “toughness” or “niceness,”
  • High Competence Threshold, when women leaders are held to higher standards and receive lower rewards than men,
  • Competent but Disliked, as 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.
For example, 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 or those employed in other industry sectors, according to 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 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

Catalyst and Center for Talent Innovation concluded that this difference in career advancement rates may be narrowed by sponsorship rather than mentorship.
Male mentors, however, are unlikely to have experienced some of the differential perceptions facing women so may be less able to provide useful advice.
They may make an important contribution to focusing attention on the challenge and may advocate organizational processes and structures that normalize equivalent competence and assertiveness in women and men.

  • What evidence suggests that women’s rate of career advancement has become similar to men’s?
  • What type of “career encouragement” enable women to advance in careers at a rate similar to men?

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