How to Overcome Gender Bias When Being Evaluated (and Evaluating Others) for Career Opportunities
Research suggests that men are evaluated for promotions differently than women because of the impact of unconscious gender bias.
A 2019 Frontiers of Psychology study found that men’s potential is valued more highly for leadership roles than performance. Whereas women’s performance is valued more highly than their potential.
So what do we do with this information?
There are two different ways to respond. One is for candidates for potential promotion, and one is for leaders who are making hiring decisions.
1. If we're raising our hand for some kind of career opportunity or promotion, we need to ask what matters for that promotion.
What are the things that you would need to see in me?
What would be evidence of that?
And then we need to go and collect that evidence, because many of us actually do have the experience. (I had a client who didn’t have experience in a specific area of her job, but she did in her volunteer experience.)
We need to be able to share—and even visualize by writing it down—the specific bullet points of what we’ve done to really emphasize our past accomplishments more highly and why they would make us a good fit for the role.
The second way to respond is for leaders and people who make hiring decisions.
2. When making a promotion decision, first compare each candidate on each element of their past experience (e.g. their education or performance in this one area of past projects), and then compare their potential.
But we need to be really specific about why we’ve made that assessment.
Why do we think he’d be good at that? Because of X.
Why do we think she would be good at that? Because of Y.
This strategy comes from a great book called What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet.
And when we start to look at it with more specificity, while it doesn’t always 100% eliminate bias, it can reduce bias so that we’re making sure to evaluate men and women fairly and equally for the same career experience and potential.