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Dr Margaret Byrne, upcoming Ascend speaker on how unconscious gender stereotypes can contaminate performance reviews, costing you talented female staff

For the past 6 years, UGM has been researching why so few women move from the middle to the top of Australian organisations. The senior women surveyed continually raised two key issues they needed – a bigger share of the talking time in meetings, and better recognition for good performance. This research once again proves that its not that women don’t do promotion worthy work, but that they don’t get an opportunity to have it noticed.

Dr Byrne has written an article published through the UGM newsletter that covers the following points:

Managers are gatekeepers: to opportunities for their female team members to shine. Managers need to understand their role as coordinating recognition and  rewards like coaching, promotion, mentoring and development, while employees should focus on building rapport, trust and understanding with their manager.

UGM had difficulty filming performance reviews because of the understandably touchy nature of the person being assessed. But Byrne makes the point that this secrecy can be a real issue in many organisations, where employees don’t know how their co-workers (and competition for that promotion) are being assessed.

Merit and gender assumptions are not as mutually exclusive as we hope: UGM found clear examples of bias creeping in. Byrne recommends rescrutinising your HR policies for gender bias. For example create talent, capability and leadership frameworks for both genders, not just men and make sure your associated behaviours for capabilities are not male associated behaviours, but ones that both genders share and express differently.

As well as including self assessment, and peer assessment, Byrne also promotes really clear performance guidelines, because the more ambiguous the guidelines, the greater the risk of inference and unconscious gender stereotypes.

As you can see, gender stereotypes are complicated and you normally need professional help to unravel their crippling presence in your organisation. To find out if gender stereotypes are a risk for your company, use this tool kit. And to register for November Ascend click here.


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