Stanford Sociologist Pilots New Method to Reduce Gender Inequality at Work

A new approach for reducing gender inequality in the workplace has shown promise in a pilot project at several companies. It combines existing tools and adds an evaluation of places where biases could creep into a company’s procedures.


When many organizations are feeling constrained to provide details regarding and enhance gender inequality at work, a Stanford sociologist, Shelley Correll is discovering accomplishment with another strategy for lessening the sort of inclination that prompts these disparities.

Along with her colleagues, Correll piloted and found successful method while working with several technology companies over the last three years. They dubbed this method as ‘a small wins model’, that focuses on educating managers and workers about bias, diagnosing where gender bias could enter their company’s hiring, promotion or other evaluation practices and working with the company’s leaders to develop tools that help measurably reduce bias and inequality.

An estimate suggests, since 30 years, stereotypes about what men and ladies are prepared to do and how they ought to carry on make individuals assess men and ladies in an unexpected way, particularly when the criteria for assessment are vague. This predisposition puts ladies off guard in working environments, where they get employed and advanced at bringing down rates than men.

Ladies are generally subjected to a higher bar, requiring more confirmation than men to be viewed as qualified. Likewise, if individuals judge a lady to be capable, they frequently judge her as less amiable, a connection that isn’t valid for men.

On account of this exploration, many organizations as of late have put assets into lessening the sorts of inclination that prompt gender imbalance. The two most normal methodologies have been oblivious inclination preparing and formalizing of techniques for procuring and assessing representatives so they depend on accomplishment related criteria.

Correll said, “The change we can realistically expect to produce in any one instance will be small, imperfect and incomplete. Step by step, I believe that these small wins are the path to achieving our larger goal, which is the transformation of our organizations.”

“Both approaches help companies with diversity, they are not complete solutions. While unconscious bias training is important and helps improve short-term behavior during hiring and promotion decisions, the effects wear off over time and can be threatening to people in power, leading to more bias rather than less.”

“Formal procedures for hiring and promotions also haven’t been entirely successful. For example, fire departments previously used height as a criterion for screening applicants. Despite height being an objective benchmark, its requirement screens out more women than men and a person’s height isn’t directly related to one’s ability to perform the job of a firefighter.”

In this model, a company would provide workers with bias training and experts would analyze the company’s procedures to understand where bias might be creeping in. The experts would then work with managers of the company to develop better procedures or tools, implement them and evaluate what changes they produce. The entire process focuses on creating objective performance checklists and other tools that eliminate ambiguity and the chance for bias from people using them.

When tried this model with several companies, they found measurable improvements in gender inequalities at those companies.

When putting it in place a new employee scorecard, managers were less likely to discuss an employee’s personality rather than his or her work. Before the new scorecard, comments during these discussions criticized 14 percent of women for being ‘too aggressive’ and 8 percent of men for being ‘too soft’. A year later, after rolling out the new scorecard, those figures dropped to zero percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Correll said, “Bias training can backfire, increasing bias; and formal procedures can be misused by decision makers or, worse, have gender biases built into their design. In spite of these limitations, I argue that educating about stereotyping and bias and formalizing evaluation processes are two key building blocks crucial for producing sustainable change.”

“Well, we have been inspired by the number of managers and leaders dedicated to equality in the workplace whom she has met over the past three years. Although reducing bias and inequality completely will take a long time.”

“It’s encouraging to see that many people genuinely want to be more inclusive. These companies didn’t have to open up to us researchers. And I can’t stress enough how valuable working with them and evaluating their data has been.”

The results are published in Gender & Society.

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