May 26, 2016
Most business leaders agree that “socially diverse groups … are more innovative than homogeneous groups.” Yet, as McKinsey & Co. recently concluded, “Corporate America is not on a path to gender equality.” Women are not represented at senior levels of businesses in numbers comparable to men, and the reason is straightforward: those who evaluate women’s career advancement often have (unconscious) biases against women.
Meaningful progress toward gender diversity in America’s C-suites, therefore, depends on eliminating gender bias from our evaluation processes. Here are three techniques to get you there:
Implement Blind Performance Reviews
Performance reviews should be made as blind as possible. To achieve this, we suggest adopting what orchestras implemented to remove gender bias from their own processes.
In 1963, the 104-member Chicago Symphony Orchestra had only three women; the New York Philharmonic had none. By 2015, Chicago had 41 women, New York had 44, and the top 250 American orchestras were about 50 percent women. Their gender composition changed because orchestras began conducting auditions from behind screens, so the audition judges are “blind” to a performer’s gender. There are three ways businesses can apply the blind audition concept to performance evaluations and promotions.
Try Slow Thinking
Nobel prizewinner Daniel Kahneman distinguishes two modes of thinking: fast and slow. Fast thinking relies on stereotypes and implicit biases; it is instinctual and emotional. Slow thinking requires thoughtful and logical decisions. We have three suggestions to ensure evaluators use slow thinking.
Outsmart Mind Bugs
Finally, a gender-neutral review process must eliminate the implicit biases – “mind bugs” – that persist in society. According to the developers of the Implicit Association Tests (“IAT”), these “dauntingly persistent” mind bugs are best eliminated by outsmarting them. We can apply this insight to performance evaluations in two ways.
These suggestions are useful starting points for businesses to address gender bias. Focusing on the insights that underlie these suggestions will allow you to reduce unconscious bias in a way that works for your business.