Knowledge Center

Break the Cycle—Managers: Eliminating Gender Bias in Development Opportunities

Catalyst research shows that gender bias can seep into talent management systems, affecting every employee at every level in a vicious cycle. Managers use the processes and tools provided by HR (which are influenced by senior leadership) to evaluate the performance of employees and make decisions about advancement and development. Managers: learn more about how to ensure you are giving equal access to “hot jobs” and promotions by downloading this Supporter-only tool. 

As you use this tool, also consider taking the following five actions:

  1. Be Specific: Give honest, detailed feedback to all of your direct reports, and tie it to concrete business goals and outcomes. Research shows that feedback—both positive and constructive—given to women tends to be vague and overwhelmingly focused on communication style. In contrast, men, who are viewed as leaders by default, are given specific feedback that tends to be tied to both business goals and technical skills that accelerate advancement.
  2. Make No Assumptions: Have more frequent and regular feedback conversations, as well as open dialogues with your direct reports about their goals and aspirations. Then actively champion them. Avoid making assumptions about the needs, work interests, and competencies of your team members (e.g., she won’t want to relocate because she has a young child, or he’s not a parent so he doesn’t need work-life flexibility).
  3. Identify Your Blind Spots: Build your own awareness about unconscious bias and the in-groups and out-groups it may unintentionally create. Common areas where bias has an impact include hiring, work assignments, compensation decisions, and performance reviews. Slow down, and become aware of bias in your own decision-making.
  4. Walk the Talk: Commit to cultivating inclusive norms by encouraging and supporting all team members. Highlight accomplishments and give credit when deserved, especially to women who may be overlooked or discouraged from talking about their own successes because of gender stereotypes related to self-promotion.
  5. Assignments Matter. Look to all of your employees—not just the usual suspects—when potential “hot jobs,” sponsorship programs, and promotions are available. Work with each team member to identify specific opportunities that will help them grow and advance, and especially encourage women to negotiate for more challenging and satisfying roles.

Looking for deeper insights? Learn more about how to ensure you are giving equal access to “hot jobs” and promotions by downloading this Supporter tool.

How to cite this product: Catalyst, Break the Cycle—Managers: Eliminating Gender Bias in Development Opportunities (Catalyst, 2018).