Author Archives: Patrick Ford
Author Archives: Patrick Ford
Stretch assignments or "hot jobs" can make careers. These are jobs that:
Are on highly visible projects,
Hold mission critical value
Involve international experience
One report found that "62% of high potential employees described obtaining stretch and high-profile assignments... as having the greatest impact to their careers." Critical relationships came in a strong second (44% named this), and formal learning programs a distant third (only 10%). These are not completely distinct activities (relationships can lead to stretch assignments, for example), but it's worth nothing that stretch assignments were named the most.
Facts and Data
Men are more likely to be given higher profile assignments. Significantly more men than women reported getting C-Suite visibility to a very great extent while working on projects (35% of men, 26% of women) [Catalyst]
Men are more likely to work on global teams with extensive travel. 88% of men and 77% of women said they traveled for work internationally, yet women were not any more likely to turn down international work when it was offered (11% of men, 10% of women). Additionally of men and women willing to relocate internationally, more men had an employer initiate an international assignment (35% of men, 26% of women) and more women than men were never offered an international relocation opportunity at all (55% of men, 64% of women) [Catalyst]
Moving to a globally managed talent system has helped us increase the representation of women in leadership roles in areas where we’d historically had less success. Everyone from across the company puts their people in a shared pool, and when employees are in this pool, they can be considered for all available roles. This helps ensure everyone gets to know our high-potentials from around the world and has gotten people focused on promoting a diverse pipeline. ~ Jan Fields, President, McDonald’s USA, LLC (source)
Stretch assignments are vital to get to the next level faster. They don’t go to women and people of color as much, which is a problem. I think it plays out like this somewhat unconsciously: it’s harder to trust somebody who's very different from you. Choosing someone more similar feels like you're de-risking the situation since you can more easily coach that person through challenging situations. For someone someone very different, the chances of failing are much higher because I don't know how to jump in there and guide and coach and make this person successful in whatever that stretch assignment or what that opportunity is. I don't think this is how this process should work, but I think it's the mindset that commonly happens. ~ SVP at Fortune 200 Company
The sweet spot of development or high achievers is a 50 to 70% chance of success [HBR]
Who you know and the quality of the relationships in your network play a large role in finding and being selected for valuable opportunities. Being known helps with finding and getting hired for jobs, being given important "stretch assignments" that advance career, and finding "sponsors" who will advocate for advancement in essential ways.
An individual's personal and professional networks are mostly made up of people of similar backgrounds, interests, and cultures. While it's understandable that people make friends and networks of likeminded people, that also creates obstacles for the advancement of people who don't fall into the networks of powerful, senior leaders who are predominantly white, heterosexual men.
Facts and Data
Networking with senior colleagues leads to advancement and women get less face time. High potential employees described forming critical relationships with influential others as most impactful to their advancement (44% of those surveyed), particularly when it came to gaining access to key roles. Additionally, significantly more men than women reported getting C-Suite visibility to a great extent while working on projects (35% for men, 26% for women) [Catalyst]
People do benefit from networking. Organizers of a women's networking conference surveyed 2,600 working women across functions and industries. Their control group was made up of women who were signed up for a conference in the near future but had not yet attended. They found that 42% of the women who had already attended the conference had received a promotion whereas only 18% of the control group did. Additionally, 15% of the women who had attended received a pay increase (of 10%+) vs only 5% of the women in the control group [HBR]
Emails from prospective students to professors across graduate programs were much less likely to be responded to if they came from women and people of color. Researchers from Wharton, Columbia, and NYU Stern sent 6,000 faculty members (spanning a range of disciplines) letters from "would-be grad students" expressing interest in talking about research opportunities in the program, becoming a graduate student and learning about the professor's work. The letters asked for a 10-minute discussion. The letters were identical in every way except for the names of the fictional people sending them (e.g. Brad Anderson for white men; Keisha Thomas for black women; Mei Chen for Chinese women; Juanita Martinez for Latina women). The response rates varied widely as you can see in the table below [Inside Higher Ed]
Hear it FirstHand
Just because it's not golf anymore doesn't mean that there's not a boys' club in tech, mostly made up of white and sometimes Asian men. It's a lot more well intentioned, but I have experienced informal networks that end up excluding a lot of people. There is a culture in which social and business are melding in Tech right now. You do your happy hour with coworkers and get drunk together... I was actually delighted by this at first when I started some years back, but now I've realized how problematic that can be. Again, it's not intentional, but your manager's surfing and burning man buddies absolutely have a leg up.
Hear it FirstHand
I was sitting in a boardroom with 4 male board members debating a strategic decision when we decided to take a short break and reconvene in 5 minutes. After the break, the other board members were talking among themselves and one of them said "Well I'm glad that's decided - Let's move on." It turned out that they had made the decision in the men's restroom without me.
At my consulting firm, on most projects for team building we would go to basketball games and drink. I had fun (even though I don't really know or care about basketball), but I also felt out of place and couldn't really connect with diehard basketball fans. But I had one great manager who would always make sure we did team building events that were more inclusive, stuff like morning spin classes, board games, escape rooms. We did one of those scavenger hunt games once, which while kinda corny actually was really fun. It helped me get to know everyone much better.
Women have less and less substantive interactions with senior leaders than men do as they progress [McKinsey]
Hold events that are inclusive of everyone. Historically, leadership of powerful institutions have been heterosexual, white men and have engaged in activities for this demographic. These "traditional" kinds of business events can end up being exclusive, even if unintentionally. There’s no one-size-fits-all type of event that will fit a company culture, but avoid events with heavy alcohol consumption and anything of a gendered or sexual nature. Common events like watching sports or playing on an office softball team can end up being either inclusive or exclusive depending on how they're done
Create a culture conducive to forming connections between everyone. Leaders can ask colleagues and supervisees about the occasions when they are the most connected to colleagues and most relaxed while at work. In the situations that white male leadership describe, are there women or people of color also present? If not, why not? If so, is everybody enjoying themselves? [BCG]
Support others' "Strategic Networking". Three different types of networks play a vital role in achieving goals: Operational, Personal, and Strategic. Operational Networks help you manage current internal responsibilities, Personal Networks boosts professional development, and Strategic Networks focus on advancement and and the stakeholders to help you get there. The suggestion here is to facilitate Strategic Networking since Operational and Personal don't have as much bang for their buck [World Economic Forum]
Create sponsorship programs. Sponsorship programs are those in which the company identifies promising up-and-comers and matches them with senior leaders who can advocate for their promotions, team assignments, and training and development. Lots of research shows these programs generate real results. [BCG] A different newsletter of ours covers "Sponsorship" in more depth
Proactively referencing someone's name when talking about their original idea/contribution in order to give credit. It can be used in many settings: meetings, talks, writing, etc. This is in response to the dynamic that women’s contributions, especially women of color, are often ignored or attributed to men. [Washington Post]
Facts and Data
I always appreciate the "alley oop" - I've had a few close male colleagues who point out when someone steals my point. They do it in a very low-key way, such as, "I think that's exactly what Yuriko was just saying.
One of my managers (after reading the amplification article about the women in the White House working for Obama) made a point to proactively use everyone’s name (not just women) when talking about their good ideas in team meetings (he didn’t do this with bad ideas - probably a good move).
Hear it FirstHand
A few jobs ago my boss wouldn't accept ideas from women. My coping mechanism, as the ops manager for the company that he CEOd, was to plan 3 months out, offer the idea, plan to have him reject it, wait 3 months until he forgot it was me who originally had it, and have him re-suggest it at a meeting so I could say "Great idea! Let's do that!".
Amplify others ideas and contributions. Proactively give credit to people for their good ideas. If you see someone who is not getting credit for a good idea, double your effort to do so. This happens to everyone, but women of color are most likely to not get credit.
Create clear criteria for what excellence looks like. This will help you give accolades and credit with more accuracy. Bias thrives in ambiguity.
Publicly praise people who do good work. Women who were given positive feedback were more likely to give themselves credit for the good work they did.
Be specific when giving credit. This helps listeners to truly take in someone’s accomplishments.
White House women want to be in the room where it happens [Washington Post]
What working women can do when they don’t get credit for collaboration [Dr. Madeline E. Heilman]
Evaluations provide a formal assessment of someone's job performance often with recommendations on how to improve and further developmental goals. Feedback is often a part of evaluations, but is distinct. Many organizational behavior experts suggest de-coupling evaluations and feedback as much as possible. [HBR]
Facts and Data
Unconscious beliefs about what leaders look like can affect evaluations. Studies have found that people underrepresented in business leadership are often deemed less suitable for leadership roles. For example, a 2008 study asked participants to read a story about a male CEO and then to rate the CEO on his effectiveness as a leader. When the CEO was described as white, he was perceived as a more effective leader than when he was described as black. The story was exactly the same [Paradigm]
Biases can lead to gender double-standards. One researchers who looked through many performance evaluations found the same behavior was treated differently from men than women. One review read “Heidi seems to shrink when she’s around others, and especially around clients, she needs to be more self-confident.” But a similar problem — confidence in working with clients — was given a positive spin when a man was struggling with it: “Jim needs to develop his natural ability to work with people.”[HBR]
Bias creeps in most the evaluation process is ambiguous and open-ended. Performance evaluations without structured intermittent feedback and evaluation sessions tend to rely on the supervisors impressions. Impressions are very susceptible to unconscious bias. Additionally, evaluations that lack clear metrics tied to job outcomes also invite impressions rather than objective data [Paradigm]
I had no idea of what I was doing, and it was a nightmare. The line of work I was assigned to was really complicated, and I didn’t think I could last here. The conversations I had with my line manager were very honest — “This is where you’re technically capable, but also this is where you’re not” — and I could then look at the cold facts of the ratio between the two. We had a chat about what support would and wouldn’t be available to help with some of those gaps, how much I’d have to learn and how fast I’d have to learn it, and we compared it to some of the things I’d done previously, and it came out it’d probably work out. It’s really worth having someone say, “You did that really well, your technical work there was great, but you didn’t explain it in a manner that your audience could understand.” Very honest
feedback helped me to now have the confidence to know what I can do and try to swim when thrown in at the deep end. ~ Jennita, Process Engineer (source)
Hear it FirstHand
There was a woman who I supervised who wasn't performing up to the standards I had. I tried to bring this up to her at one point, but she seemed upset by what I had to say. After that I got nervous about giving her feedback because I didn't want to make her feel bad. But she wasn't performing well either and so I was stuck with this situation where I really needed her to improve but I didn't know how to tell her. It wasn't good, and I realize now that even though I was trying not to hurt her feelings, I also was not helping her career.
Use hard data and clear metrics for evaluations. Make key decisions based on hard data and less on subjective, qualitative elements, such as comments on a candidate’s personality or personal circumstances [BCG]
Evaluating employees in small groups and comparing them to each other reduces bias. Researchers gathered data on how well 100 experiment participants, "employees", performed at math and verbal problems (polls of gender attitudes show most believe men are better at math and women better at verbal tasks). They then threw out the scores of all participants except those who got mediocre test results. Next, they asked 554 other participants, "employers", to choose from this smaller set of "employees" (including knowing their gender) and choose which they thought would do best on another round of tasks. When "employers" were given only one "employee" at a time, gender stereotypes played out – male candidates were chosen for math t asks and female candidates for chosen for verbal tasks. When "employers" were given both a male and female candidate at the same time, this stereotype disappeared [HBS Working Knowledge]
How To Design Performance Reviews That Don’t Fail Women [Fast Company]
Negotiations happen throughout someone's career, most commonly around hiring and promotion. Gaining a better salary through negotiations has been named as a significant factor in the pay gap between women and men who share similar roles, backgrounds, and levels of experience.
Many different studies show that stereotypes negatively affect how someone who initiates negotiations is perceived. Initiating negotiation goes can lead people to feel irritated or resentful at the same behavior from a woman of color that from a white man would would seem acceptable.
Facts and Data
Women opting out of negotiations can be a smart move. Researchers set up a negotiation laboratory. They found that 49% of women get a better deal after negotiations; 9% end up with a worse deal; 8% end with no change; and 34% don't negotiate at all. To determine if avoiding negotiations 34% of the time was financially wise, the researchers did a second experiment in which they mandated that women negotiate. When this happened, women’s overall wages decreased – 49% of women still got a better deal, but the percentage of women who got a worse deal increased from 9 to 33% [HBR]
Women may benefit from negotiating in some situations. One study asked actual graduating master's degree students who had received job offers about whether they accepted their offered starting salary or had tried to negotiate for more. They found that four times as many men (51% of the men vs. 13% percent of the women) had pushed for a better deal. Those who negotiated tended to be rewarded: they got 7% percent more on average [Washington Post]
Women are seen more negatively for negotiating. In another study, researchers divided 119 volunteers at random into different groups and provided them with descriptions of male or female candidates who tried to negotiate a higher starting salary for a hypothetical job, along with descriptions of applicants who accepted the offered salary. The volunteers were asked to decide whether they would hire the candidates, who were all described as exceptionally talented and qualified. While both men and women were penalized for negotiating, researchers found that the negative effect for women was more than twice as large as that for men [Washington Post]
Women DO initiate negotiations as often as men when comparing those of similar backgrounds. Women on average are less likely to be successful, but there's no difference between millennial men and women. Researchers in Australia examined 4,600 randomly selected employees across 800 workplaces. Australia was chosen because it documents useful info on “asking” behavior. They found that, holding background factors constant, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. That being said, these same researchers also found that younger women in the labor market appear statistically indistinguishable — even in “getting” — from the younger men. Hence it could be that negotiating behavior through the years has begun to change
Despite the fact that women negotiate for raises and promotions more than men, they are less likely to receive them [McKinsey]
An Academic's Conclusion
What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not. They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not... This isn't about fixing the women. It isn't about telling women, "You need self-confidence or training." They are responding to incentives within the social environment... It makes sense that women are more reticent to negotiate for themselves than men if the social costs of doing so are greater for women than they are for men. ~ Hannah Riley Bowles, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy [Washington Post]
Telstra, the Australian telecommunications provider, recently developed a female talent strategy that includes a newly launched website featuring real role models, pertinent advice for career-oriented women, and targeted recruiting messaging for this audience (for example, highlighting a proactive approach to gender pay equity). The communications provider has seen a double-digit increase in the number of job applications from women [BCG]
If you allow negotiations, let all candidates know they can negotiate. Using a "natural field experiment" researchers designed a randomized control trial of nearly 2,500 actual job seekers. They posted a job online and sent back job application forms that either explicitly named negotiations were invited or left it ambiguous. The researchers found that the gender gap in applications was much bigger for jobs that left wage negotiation ambiguous, and that including the wage was “negotiable” in the job application caused the gender gap in applications to reduce by 45%. Lastly, they found that when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men were more likely to negotiate than women, but when it was explicit there was no negotiation gender gap [Harvard Kennedy School]
Set salaries by role and avoid negotiations. If companies determine starting salaries using a candidate’s previous salary, this greatly exacerbates pay gaps over the course of a career [Paradigm]. BCG suggests eliminating these negotiations altogether since they have been proven to disproportionately negatively impact women [BCG]
Monitor negotiation and pay outcomes. Regularly reviewing pay across the organization can help avoid bias and ensure equity. Reviewing compensation policies and monitoring for bias at each stage in compensation-setting is helpful for uncovering the source of inequities, if they do exist. [Paradigm]
Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling [Washington Post]
Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations? Evidence from a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment [Harvard Kennedy School]
The best selection processes are those that have articulated what characteristics make a great employee and have effective ways to evaluate those characteristics.
Even if you didn't care about fairness to the candidates themselves, structuring interviews and mitigating biases is proven to be the best way to choose the best candidates, rather than choosing the person who is good at interviewing or "looks the part".
Unconscious bias weighs most heavily when we don't have adequate structure or evaluation criteria. In addition to addressing those two issues, other straightforward steps can also be very helpful: finding diverse candidate pools and appointing diverse hiring boards.
Facts and Data
Orchestras in the 70s began adding way more women after conducting "blind" auditions. Researchers collected audition records from 8 major symphony orchestras that consisted of 14,121 person-rounds, 7,065 individuals and 588 audition-rounds. Top orchestras went from 6% to 21% female after implementing a new process in which musicians auditioned behind a curtain. The curtains ensured the judges could not be unconsciously biased by seeing the musician’s gender. According to Harvard's analysis, blind auditions explain 25% of the increase in women in orchestras between the 1970s and 1990s. [Harvard Kennedy School]
An analysis of medical school selection processes found that interviews provided no predictive value in student success. In the late 80s, Texas legislators required the UT Houston to increase the medical school class size from 150 to 200 — after they had already chosen their 150 students. This turned into an eye-opening field study that showed the value of their application process. The results? There turned out to be no performance difference between initially accepted and initially rejected students. Furthermore, the researchers found that about 75% of the difference in initial ratings between initially accepted and initially rejected students was due to interviewers’ perceptions of the candidates in unstructured interviews, not more objective measures [HBR]
Elite jobs often are awarded based on "cultural fit" not ability. A study in 2012 done of elite investment banking, consulting, and law firms found that their interview processes heavily relied on "cultural matching" (i.e. similarity to the interviewer) rather than ability. The researcher found that 75% of Law firms, 65% of Investment Banks, and 40% of consulting firm hirers used cultural matching as their top evaluative criteria [Kellogg Northwestern]
I was on an interview panel once for a job opening in our department. One applicant used only male pronouns when talking about ANYONE. All hypothetical employees were "he" and managers were "him," etc. It was awful. I cringed every time the applicant opened his mouth. At the end of the interview, the man who was on the panel with me, made a polite comment that our organization is very diverse and we can't blanket everyone with he/him pronouns. When the applicant left, my coworker acknowledged how bad that interview may have felt for me and mentioned that he himself was uncomfortable with the applicant's use of pronouns.
What Not to Do
It seems like we’re always at work. We work nights; we work weekends; we are pretty much in the office or traveling. It’s way more fun if the people around you are your friends. So, when I’m interviewing, I look for people . . . I’d want to get to know and want to spend time with, even outside of work . . . people I can be buddies with. ~ Consultant (source)
What Not to Do
A lot of this job is attitude, not aptitude . . . fit is really important. You know, you will see more of your co-workers than your wife, your kids, your friends, and even your family. So you can be the smartest guy ever, but I don’t care. I need to be comfortable working everyday with you, then getting stuck in an airport with you, and then going for a beer after. You need chemistry. Not only that the person is smart, but that you like him. ~ Banker (source)
"Cultural fit" obviously matters, but assess it in a considered and structured way. Culture fit interviews, like all interviews, can be less biased when they are designed to assess for specific, predetermined factors that are relevant to the job: e.g., the candidate is collaborative, likes taking on challenges, is comfortable with a quickly changing environment [Paradigm]
Use structured interviews. Structured interviews standardize the process among candidates, eliminating much subjectivity. These interviews pose the same set of questions in the same order to all candidates, allowing clearer comparisons between them. This may seem obvious approach, but is very underused. The flow of conversation during the interview will be slightly more awkward, but the payoff is worth it. You can do a "cultural fit" interview after doing the main structured part [HBR]
Develop a rubric to assess interview answers in advance. Developing a rubric to define what great answers, decent answers, and poor answers look like for each question ensures that all candidates are held to the same standard. In addition to minimizing bias, this type of structured process has been shown to produce the most effective hiring decisions [Paradigm]
Screening resumes is the process of sorting resumes to choose only the most viable candidates for the next step in the hiring process.
Facts and Data
Resumes indicating the applicant is not a heterosexual, white male are much less likely to progress to the next step in hiring. To study this phenomenon, researchers create two resumes that are identical except for one key component. This could be an applicant name signifying race, gender, or class; a bullet point showing affiliation with a sexual identity; or a line indicating motherhood. These studies find an advantage to being an upperclass, white, heterosexual man
Identical resumes with "typically Black" names are called back at 5/6 the rate as "typically white" names. Researchers submitted 9,400 fake resumes throughout many cities and states. African-Americans were invited to interview 15.2% of the time, compared to 18% for white applicants. This 2.8 point gap translates to African-Americans being 16% less likely to get a callback. Additionally, for customer-facing jobs, this gap reached 4.4 points, almost doubling [fortune]
Identical application materials from men were rated much higher than those from women. Researchers sent 127 hard science professors fake applications for a lab manager position. Half the professors received an application from "Jennifer" the other half from "John". Using scales from 1 to 7, John was rated higher than Jennifer on competency (4 vs 3.4), hireability (3.75 vs 2.9), and ability to mentor (4.75 vs 4). He was also offered a 14% higher starting salary of $30.1k compared to Jennifer's $26.5k. The only category Jennifer beat John on was "likeability" in which she received a 4.35 to John's 3.91, though this evidently did not provide professional credibility. Importantly, female professors were just as likely as male professors to rate Jennifer lower [Harvard Kennedy School]
Resumes with LGBT affiliation in some areas had less than half the chance of a callback than those without. Pairs of fictitious resumes were sent in response to 1,769 job postings in five occupations and seven states. Overall, resumes identifying work with a gay organization received only 60% of the callbacks without it. The discrimination had obvious geographic patterns. Firms in CA, MA, PA (10% callback rate) were much less likely to discriminate against gay resumes compared to TX, OH, FL, and NV (4% callback rate). Also, employers who emphasized the importance of stereotypically male heterosexual traits were particularly likely to discriminate against openly gay men, with callback rates dropping by a third to 3% (compared to the control of 10%) [American Journal of Sociology]
How men and women are rated with identical resumes [Harvard Kennedy School]
Hear it FirstHand
At a huge news org I worked for, a small group of black female staff members were standing around chatting; two of them were writers and all of us were talking about the writing test we’d all taken in order to become staff writers. A young, white, male colleague who was also a staff writer joined the conversation and when the conversation turned back to the writing test, he furrowed his brow and asked “what writing test?”
Hear it FirstHand
If the employer is known for trying to employ more people of color [like me] and having a diversity outreach program, then I would include [identifying information about my race] because in that sense they’re trying to broaden their employees, but if they’re not actively trying to reach out to other people of other races, then no, I wouldn’t include it. (source)
Science Faculty’s Subtle Gender Biases Favor Male Students[Harvard Kennedy School]
Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States [American Journal of Sociology]