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Are Your Promotion Decisions Free from Bias?

For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 79 women are similarly promoted. For women of color, the promotion rate is even lower—particularly for black women, with only 60 black females becoming a manager for every 100 men.

These figures come from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org’s 2018 Women in the Workplace report, and while they’re perhaps unsurprising, they’re still disheartening. The report also found that female representation drops at every level of the corporate pipeline: despite making up 48% of the entry-level workforce, women account for just 38% of managers, 34% of senior managers and directors, and 29% of VPs.

By the C-suite level, female representation has dropped to just 22%. And for the few that make it to the very top, it can be a lonely place. In 2018, only 24 of the companies that made the Fortune 500 could boast female CEOs. Despite women making up roughly half of the U.S. population, they helmed 4.8% of the country’s largest companies.

None of these women were black. In fact, since 1999, there has been only one black female Fortune 500 CEO.

Where did all the women go?

So why is this happening? The report pointed out that attrition is not to blame; while many people assume that there are fewer female leaders because women leave the workforce to focus on family, this is only true in 2% of cases. And women are asking for promotions at roughly the same rate as men. They’re just not getting the same outcomes.

The culprit, as it so often is, is unconscious bias.

The glass ceiling is cemented in bias

The report found that biased behavior and attitudes are still rampant in the workplace. For example, women are much more likely to experience workplace microaggressions on a regular basis, like needing to provide more evidence of their competence than their peers (36% of women vs. 27% of men), having their judgment questioned in their area of experience (31% of women vs. 16% of men), and being mistaken for someone at a much lower level (20% of women vs. 10% of men).

These experiences are especially common if an employee is the only woman on the team, which is twice as likely once they reach a senior level, or if they work in a technical role. And only 19% of women reported that managers at their company often challenge gender-biased language and behavior when it happens.

While they might seem small in the moment, these experiences of gender bias quickly add up. The result is a drastically uneven playing field in which women may be judged on different criteria than their male coworkers when it comes to who gets a promotion and who doesn’t. And women are aware that this is happening—24% of female respondents said their gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead, compared to 8% of men.

How to shatter the glass ceiling

If you find this information depressing, take heart. The report also notes that if companies start hiring and promoting both genders at equal rates, they can achieve near-equality (a 52:48 male to female ratio) in management within the next 10 years.

How can you stamp out unconscious biases and promote a fairer decision-making process at your company?

The key is creating a blind evaluation process that judges all candidates using the exact same criteria.

· Start by outlining a clear, objective standard for who gets promoted—and sticking to it.

· Then, hide all identifying information about the candidates (like names and genders) from the people reviewing them. Reviewers will only be able to judge a candidate based on their performance, achievements, and skills, without worrying whether conscience or unconscious biases are influencing their decisions.

When it comes down to it, fair promotions are just like fair hiring. We should know. At, we help level the playing field, making it possible for all candidates to compete fairly and all companies to make unbiased decisions. To find out more about our revolutionary approach, contact us today.

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