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Chief Learning Officer at Cook Ross Talks About Roadblocks Women Face In Performance Reviews (Part 1 of 2)


By Rob Starr, Content Manager.

It’s the funnel where your abilities, strengths and even weaknesses are recognized and your career path either bolstered or shaken. For male executives, the performance review is often affirmation of a job well done and duly rewarded, but that same metric can have negative consequences for women competing for the same upward C-suite mobility. These reviews are the pipeline diversity flows through to any organization furthering executive careers, but they can remain clogged with the stuff of unconscious bias.

Howard Ross

Howard Ross

There’s been hard evidence for years that bad performance reviews are tainted by these unconscious biases.  BIAS IN PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT REVIEW PROCESS published in 2009 by Leslie Traub, President & CEO at Cook Ross Inc. found, among other things, that reviews between men were more congenial and often punctuated by encompassing pronouns like “we” whereas the ones with men in the management role and the woman being reviewed were more focused on performance rather than management development with the pronoun “you” prevalent.

Corrosive Stereotypes

The finding speaks to the first inklings of different standards being applied like an invisible thread woven into the very fabric of performance reviews combining with corrosive stereotypes. Consider the same research reports: “stereotyping is one of the most pernicious cognitive errors in the review process.”

Howard Ross is the Chief Learning Officer at Cook Ross and his extensive portfolio on the subject includes past chairman of Leadership Washington and a former director of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He adds another level to the discussion.

“It’s often said that women are evaluated on performance and men are evaluated on potential,” he says adding more men than women are given stretch opportunities whereby they are given a chance to advance to levels without prior experience. He goes on to say when it comes to side comments in columns, women have as many as four times more cautionary or negative comments as men in some instances.

Even the same behavior can be interpreted differently between the sexes with a man’s assertiveness considered a positive attribute in the business world while regarded a personality flaw in a female.

Ross says these perceptions are often unconscious.

Read the second part tomorrow:

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