Are you Perpetuating Gender Bias with your Performance Review Process?

Working toward gender equality is a slow grind. Gender Bias is systemic; for change to truly happen, discussions need to be front and center in business every day. Businesses need to look deep into existing processes to see where gender bias is institutionalized. Performance reviews and processes are one of those areas where the status quo of inequity becomes perpetuated.

Performance Reviews and Gender Bias

We can start to address gender bias by looking at normal business practices. Harvard Business Review published an illuminating article that identifies clear patterns of gender bias in annual performance reviews. Its author, Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio, reached a number of important conclusions about the current state of annual reviews:

  • Traditional review methods are out-of-date
  • Objective feedback tends to be equally fair to men and women
  • Subjective feedback can lead to gender bias, favoring men over women
  • Feedback for women tends to be more vague than feedback for men
  • Double-standards in performance review language consistently favor male employees
  • Women often do not receive full credit for their work compared to the credit that men get for similar work
  • Eliminating bias hinges upon using objective data
  • Performance tracking tools that capture real-time feedback help minimize bias

Gender bias in performance reviews causes a chain reaction, leading to fewer promotions at every level. The numbers validate this pattern. Here’s a breakout of workforce demographics by gender, clearly demonstrating that women are passed over for promotions at every level:

Percentage of Women in the Corporate Hierarchy:

  • 21% – “C-Suite” (CEO, COO, CFO etc.)
  • 22% – Senior Vice President
  • 29% – Vice President
  • 34% – Director / Sr. Manager
  • 37% – Manager / Supervisor
  • 48% – Entry Level

Addressing this inequity starts with how companies evaluate talent as an integral part of doing business.

Understanding Your Workforce

Unfortunately, businesses don’t pay attention to their own people the same way they pay attention to their customers. Marketers, for example, use complex tools and metrics to better understand their customers; company leadership needs to do the same thing with its own people. The better a business understands its customers, the better it can serve them. The better a business understands its employees, the better it can eliminate gender bias.

Where do companies fall short, then, in understanding their employees to the same degree that they understand their customers? In order to neutralize gender bias in performance reviews, evaluation methods and tools need to be gender-neutral.

Fixing Gender Bias in Performance Reviews

To level the playing field in performance reviews, Cecchi-Dimeglio identified changes that are easy to implement and produce concrete results:

Use objective criteria, minimizing personality-based feedback

  • Broaden the group of people providing feedback, including supervisors, colleagues and clients
  • Increase the frequency of feedback
  • Use automated, real-time communication tools to snapshot performance over time
  • Use gender-neutral language in feedback forms and fields
  • Design forms and fields to encourage constructive feedback

These ideas also contribute to a company culture that’s built around employee satisfaction. Businesses can reinforce teamwork with opportunities for colleagues to celebrate each other. They can encourage employee engagement by providing clarity to workers on how they contribute to company goals.

Using the right tools helps identify leadership skills, even at the entry level – and creates gender-neutral pathways to promotion. Our breakthrough software platform OpaConnect does more than meet the need for regular objective feedback – it keeps the entire company focused and on track, and helps recognize leadership skills at every level. We designed OpaConnect to be a best-in-class solution for performance management. If you’re dedicated to success and workplace satisfaction, you can learn more about OpaConnect here.

We’re proud of our women-led company. We’ve seen the powerful leadership that comes naturally to women: as entrepreneurs, as executives, as board members, and business leaders. We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen, and we’re committed to empowering working women at every level. We believe in women, and we believe in doing the hard work to achieve equity in the workplace.

Jill Pappenheimer, President

Calling All CEOs: A Case Study in Transparency

Posted on the walls of their Dubai offices, the consulting and training firm Biz Group, hangs decorative signs that say, “Supporting People’s Personal Growth,” “Believe in Your Dreams,” and “Then Make It Happen.” With interactive art spaces and an open-minded culture of transparency and curiosity, employees are vigorously encouraged to dream, think big, support each other’s visions, and celebrate the successes in their personal lives.

When I visited their offices last month, I was enchanted by their culture and their workplace. Biz Group calls their people “Bizzers,” and the central open area and meeting rooms are colorful, inquisitive spaces that looks more like a kids’ playground than a corporate office. The atmosphere of play reflects The Biz Groups’ style of using game-based strategies to help businesses grow and thrive.

Their reputation speaks for itself – Biz Group has been named a Great Place to Work in the UAE 2 years in a row, the #1 SME Human Capital company in Dubai the last 4 years, and they’ve got an amazing 86% repeat / referral ratio. How do they get such incredible customer satisfaction, and what do they do to earn such accolades?

A Culture of Positive Change

It starts with living their values. At Biz Group, they have incorporated the company’s core values into everything they do. Their values reflect a belief that when people come first, business success will follow. Breaking from stoic business traditions, Biz Group works in a way that’s vibrant, whimsical and inspirational.

Their values speak to the importance they place on people:

  • Act with “Biz” Energy
  • Genuinely care about delivering results
  • Combining strengths
  • Supporting people’s personal growth
  • Tell what you need to hear
  • Believe anything is possible

With a culture that places such importance on the humanity of business, Biz Group takes a bold approach to Learning & Development. In a sense, they reverse-engineer from desired business outcomes. They believe that a company’s key focus should be to hire the right talent and support those employees to reach their goals and full potential. That means smart hires and a dedication to good training.

A people-focused business still needs to meet its objectives. Biz Group believes that L&D should have a measurable impact on business success and profitability. To that end, they’re very deliberate in how training is designed, making sure that learning can be directly linked to measurable business benefits. L&D should be seen as an investment with a measurable ROI.

CEO – Leading with Integrity

Biz Group CEO Hazel Jackson has her “Expectations from CEO” statement posted outside of her office. It’s a concise list of what her team can expect from her in her role as CEO. It’s also a powerful statement on accountability, and sets a tone throughout the organization that transparency and clarity help the company succeed.

The first bullet is “hold relevant ‘management team’ members accountable for the delivery of their expectations”. It’s her job to make sure her team delivers. It’s also her job to make sure everyone in the organization is clear on their own responsibilities and goals. Another one of her CEO expectations is to “deliver … billable hours to help maintain CEO salary as cost neutral to the business”. I love that Hazel is ultimately clear that even she is focused on the bottom line, and what it takes to make the company successful.

People Success Leads to Business Success

Biz Group inspired me. I think back on the huge erasable wall titled “Believe in Your Dreams.” Below the title, there are notes written by employees about their dreams. Their dreams range from “go on a safari in Africa” to “have kids” and “have my own company”.  And right next to the wall of dreams is the wall of “Then Make it Happen” – covered with photos of employees living their dreams.

Bizzers are reminded every day that they provide real value to the company. Together, they’ve created an environment where transparency is the norm – everyone knows what their roles are, how the work they do makes a difference to the bottom line, and how they can support each other to achieve even greater success. Biz Group is a model for how organizations can be profitable, thriving, and a great place to work.

If you have a great example of how your company or team is living out your values, please connect with me at Kirsti@Options4Growth.net.