Research shows outstanding women taken for granted and not promoted

Research shows outstanding women taken for granted and not promoted

Progress toward gender equality has stalled. Despite progress toward gender equality at work, it still takes women longer to get promoted than men, and few make it to the top of the corporate ladder. Research shows how standout women can be taken for granted by companies because of gender beliefs about who isn´t a flight risk. ”The findings of our peer-reviewed research suggest that exceptionally qualified women are undervalued and taken for granted by organizations.”

“If If companies assume women will place loyalty to the firm over advancing in their careers through outside opportunities, they won’t engage in pre-emptive retention efforts like bonuses, raises, promotions, or increased responsibility like they will for men. To stop taking talented women for granted and to avoid losing them to other firms, companies need to do more to recognize and address these biases”, the researchers write in Harvard Business Review.

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They advise women to compare their qualifications and experience to those held by their male peers to determine if they might be qualified for a higher-ranking or higher-paying position. Women can also proactively get outside offers as leverage to improve their benefits and salary. Company leaders should take a hard look at their retention practices, which are often not standardized and left up to the discretion of individual managers, the researchers, Elizabeth L. Campbell and Oliver Hahl, write.

ADVANCED DEGREES

”Women are doing what conventional wisdom says is necessary for success: They’re earning advanced degrees, entering high-paying industries, and acquiring impressive qualifications at rates equal to or higher than men. But it still takes women longer to get promoted, and few make it to the top of the corporate ladder. Many women feel like they must be twice as good to get half as far.”

Their studies show that organizations often do not systematically document why they decide not to promote an employee or hire a job candidate, and even fewer would willingly share that information with researchers.

”We find that gender matters a lot — our results suggest that people are more comfortable hiring women for jobs they’re overqualified for than men. The reason why comes down to gender-biased assumptions about how challenging it will be to retain them.”

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“People assume that men prioritize career advancement above loyalty to a single firm. Men with exceptional qualifications were seen as 19% more likely to jump ship at the next, better opportunity compared to those with fewer but sufficient qualifications for the job, on average.”

LOYALTY

The researchers have found that people make a different set of assumptions about what matters to exceptional women.

”While it’s assumed that exceptional men will job hop to get a promotion, it’s assumed that exceptional women will stay loyal to their firm because they value their relationships with their co-workers. The assumption that women value these relationships is so strong that people continue to believe exceptional women will choose to stay even in the face of better, outside career opportunities.”

“Our results show exceptional women, on average, are seen as 20% less likely to leave the firm and 26% more likely to be hired as a result, compared to men with equivalent exceptional qualifications.”

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”Our findings illuminate how standout women employees can be taken for granted by firms because of gendered beliefs about who is and who isn’t a flight risk. Moreover, such gendered dynamics likely contribute to the glass ceiling and gender gaps in earnings. If firms assume women will place loyalty to the firm over advancing in their careers through outside opportunities, they won’t engage in preemptive retention efforts like bonuses, raises, promotions, or increased responsibility like they will for men.”

BE PROACTIVE

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers recommend women to compare their qualifications and experience to those held by their male peers to determine if they might be qualified for a higher-ranking or higher-paying position. Women can also proactively get outside offers as leverage to improve their benefits and salary.

”Company leaders should take a hard look at their retention practices, which are often not standardized and left up to the discretion of individual managers. These types of informal evaluation processes require managers to make assessments without all the information they might need or want about an employee or job candidate.”

ASK QUESTIONS

”As a manager, be careful about the assumptions you make about employees’ and job candidates’ goals and motivations. It’s common to make assumptions when you don’t have all the information. But it’s problematic to base consequential, career-advancing decisions on these preconceived notions. Instead, be direct and ask questions. Talk to your employees and job candidates about their career goals and what they want and expect and listen to what they have to say.”

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Elizabeth L. Campbell is assistant professor of management at Rady School of Management, UC San Diego. She studies gender inequality in career advancement. Oliver Hahl is associate professor of organization theory, strategy, and entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University. He studies how perceptions of status, commitment, and authenticity affect decisions in markets.

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