Study: When Performance Trumps Gender Bias: Joint versus Separate Evaluation (Harvard Business School, Bohnet, Van Green, Bazerman, 2012)
Finding: Joint evaluations for senior level positions might be the ticket to overcoming gender bias and stereotypical notions in hiring managers.
Note about The Woman Effect Research Index: This study was performed by researchers not affiliated with InPower Women. Our Research Index includes all relevant research to the subject of women, business and power. We do not influence how the research was conducted or reported by the researchers. In our abstracts, we focus on pulling out the most actionable advice for individual women. To suggest additional research we should index, or discuss our choice of abstract focus, please contact us
InPower Insight: We can’t get rid of the human propensity to be biased and apply stereotypes to others, but we can mitigate it’s impact.
Gender bias in hiring, promotion and job assignments may be difficult to overcome, but there’s good news to report. Research is being done on how best to curb the effects of gender bias so that hiring managers can make smarter decisions, based on less on stereotype than past performance.
In this study out of the Harvard Business School, researchers look at the data that suggests that gender bias automatically comes into play when an evaluator learns the sex of the person they will interview. In an effort to bridge this bias, this study points to a new method of intervention: an “evaluation nudge,” in which “employees are evaluated jointly rather than separately regarding their future performance.”
Studies show that at more senior level position, the more the gender gap is most prevalent. In Fortune 500 companies, only 3.6% of CEOs, 14.1% of executive officers, and 16.1% of board members were female in 2011. In joint evaluation, “more potentially counter- stereotypical data points are available at a time than in separate evaluation” therefore giving evaluators the opportunity to place a check on their stereotypical notions. Evaluators can choose based on performance rather than perceived abilities connected to the evaluated person’s gender.
The evaluation nudge proves to be a profit maximizing decision procedure when practiced accurately. During the experiment, there was no specific or pronounced connection between gender and one’s ability to complete a task. Where there were small differences, they tended to be stereotypical. However, when evaluators considered potential hires in isolation, they choose to hire the poor performing male 63% of the time, versus 3% of the time when evaluating potential hires of both genders in a group. The additional information in the group hire, provided enough context and comparative data to allow the evaluators to overcome their unconscious gender bias.
Career Coaching Tip: If you’re a hiring manager, take this research to heart and understand that you, like everyone, has unconscious gender bias that comes into play when making hiring decisions. Make the effort to evaluate potential hires in a group whenever possible to give yourself the maximum ability to factor out gender bias and treat applicants fairly based on past performance. Share this study with your HR department and colleagues to help them understand simple ways to make smarter hiring decisions.
Category: Cultural Trends
Keywords: Evaluation Nudge, gender bias, hiring practices
Photo Credit: Zholt Fila
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