Tag Archives: unconscious bias

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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Gender Bias in STEM Hiring Even When it Reduces Financial Returns  

Women are under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic programs and professional roles, and some question whether this is a a result of personal preference, implicit bias, institutional barriers, or other factors,

Ernesto Reuben

Ernesto Reuben

To investigate, Columbia University’s Ernesto Reuben, Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University, and University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales developed an experimental job market.
Both male and female candidates demonstrated equal skill in performing an arithmetic task, yet both female and male “hiring managers” were twice as like to hire comparable male candidateseven when the hiring managers earned less by hiring less qualified males.
*Even when participants had a financial incentive to choose the candidate with the greatest task-relevant skills, they chose less-qualified male candidates.

Paola Sapienza

Paola Sapienza

Reuben and team also found that when candidates were asked to report their performance on the task-related achievement test, men exaggerated their performance with “honest overconfidence.”
In contrast, women generally underreported their accomplishments, found University of Wisconsin’s Sylvia Beyer.

Luigi Zingales

Luigi Zingales

This gender-based bias in hiring decisions was reduced, but not eliminated when candidates’ previous performance was provided by a third party.

Sylvia Beyer

Sylvia Beyer

Some candidates were directed to report expected future performance based on initial math task performance, then the “employer” made the hiring decision.
Other candidates provided no estimate, but Reuben’s team reported candidates’ past performance to the “hiring managers.”

In other studies, “employers” had no information on each “candidate’s” previous performance, but met each applicant in person before making a hiring decision.
After the hiring managers’ choice, candidates reported expected future performance, or Reuben’s team provided candidates’ past performance to the “hiring manager.”

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Volunteers then completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGhee, and Jordan Schwartz, to elicit unconscious stereotypes of gender, competencies, and occupations.

When the candidates reported their expected performance and the “hiring manager” chose a candidate with a lower score than other contenders, 90% of the selected but underperforming candidates were male.
As a result, “hiring managers” who selected less qualified male candidates sacrificed 5-7% of their own compensation for biased selections.

Pedro Rey-Biel

Pedro Rey-Biel

Reuben and colleagues, with Pedro Rey-Biel of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona previously demonstrated that this preference for underperforming candidates was explained by the persuasive impact of men’s significantly exaggerated statements (usually by at least 30%) about past and future performance and by scores on the Implicit Association Test.

Hyperbole is apparently effective for male candidates in job interviews when the “hiring manager” scores high on the IAT.

However, this embellishment strategy is ineffective for women, as Reuben and team demonstrated:  In another study, women were still selected 33% less than expected even when they showcased their accomplishments.
Women’s overt self-promotion may provoke “backlash” against those who behave in counter-stereotypic ways.

This research suggests the prevalence of implicit biases against hiring women to perform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) functions, and male candidates’ tendency to embellish past performance and boast about future potential accomplishments.

As a result, women are selected less frequently for roles in STEM careers, continuing their under representation in these fields.

Even if women do not exaggerate past accomplishments and future potential, this research implies that they should ensure that they communicate and reinforce the full range of skills.

“Real life” hiring managers can overcome implicit hiring biases through awareness and “proper information processing” by focusing on validated performance data, and comparing candidates of the same gender with each other..

-*What strategies have you seen mitigate the influence of implicit bias influence in hiring decisions?

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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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