Conference Board study finds "unconscious bias" leads to young women
being underestimated and overlooked
Link to publication: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=5925
OTTAWA, Dec. 19, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadian organizations
are—unintentionally—underestimating young women as being too young, or
not ready, to assume increasingly more challenging leadership roles.
Women are therefore lowering their career expectations, at a cost to
both their own advancement and to the success of their organizations,
according to the findings of a Conference Board of Canada study
"This 'unconscious bias' means young women are consistently
underestimated and overlooked, right from the outset of their careers,"
said Ruth Wright, Director, Human Resource Management Research.
"Organizations need to implement objective and transparent talent
management practices that guard against unconscious bias. Otherwise,
the effects are both cumulative and costly—for young women who are
denied access to critical developmental opportunities, and for
organizations that fail to recognize and develop top talent."
Unconscious doubts about the ability of young women to take on
leadership roles influence how organizations assess and develop them.
More than one-quarter (27 per cent) of women aged 22 to 34 years are
dissatisfied with their career progression, compared to 19 per cent of
men of the same age.
The cumulative effect of unconscious bias is that only six per cent of
women in this age range are in middle management or higher, versus 12
per cent of men.
The fact that young women outnumber men in attaining university degrees
and readily find jobs once they leave school, leads to a perception
that gender barriers no longer exist. After about five years in the
labour market, millennial women (considered 23 to 35 years of age in
2013) reported that they experience unequal opportunities for
The study finds that millennial women are less likely to be identified
as "high potential" employees (45 per cent) than their male peers (53
per cent), even though they are more likely to be "high performers" (74
per cent) than men (66 per cent).
Women who are in the first years of their careers have fewer
opportunities to be mentored, coached, take on job-rotation
assignments, gain line management experience, or access professional
development training. Nevertheless, they are more likely to take part
in these opportunities when made available to them.
Lingering doubt over leadership abilities can serve to deflate the
self-confidence and career advancement expectations of women in the 23
to 35 age range. More women (18 per cent) than men (11 per cent) said
they can never reach their desired job level.
Overall, 27 per cent of millennial women said they were dissatisfied
with their career progression, compared to 19 per cent of men. For
organizations, this results in higher employee turnover; almost
two-thirds of millennial-age women said they plan to leave their
current employer within five years, while half of millennial men said
they planned to change employers in that timeframe.
Unconscious bias about the abilities of young women to take on
leadership roles has been largely overlooked as a reason for
advancement—much of the focus has been on systemic biases or overt
prejudice. The publication, Overcoming Barriers to Leadership for Young Women, recommends steps to protect against unconscious bias, which include:
Rigourously match high-potential employees with key roles using
Provide all talent assessors in organizations with education about
unconscious bias; and
Make performance evaluations more positive and open—millennial women are
more likely than men to prefer performance evaluations that focus on
work they have done well and ways to develop further.
The findings are based on surveys and interviews conducted by the
Conference Board in 2012. The research profiles a number of Canadian
organizations that have made changes to performance evaluations or
instituted training for managers to eliminate unconscious bias.
View Chart "Whether Millennials Are Satisfied With Their Career Progression"
View video commentary about Millennials in the Workplace by Ruth Wright.
View video commentary about Women in Leadership by Donna Burnett-Vachon.
Video with caption: "Millennials in the Workplace". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20131219_C5769_VIDEO_EN_35178.mp4&posterurl=http://photos.newswire.ca/images/20131219_C5769_PHOTO_EN_35178.jpg&clientName=Conference%20Board%20of%20Canada&caption=Millennials%20in%20the%20Workplace&title=CONFERENCE%20BOARD%20OF%20CANADA%20%2D%20Young%20women%20face%20barriers%20to%20workplace%20advancement&headline=Young%20women%20face%20barriers%20to%20workplace%20advancement
Video with caption: "Women in Leadership ". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20131219_C5769_VIDEO_EN_35168.mp4&posterurl=http://photos.newswire.ca/images/20131219_C5769_PHOTO_EN_35168.jpg&clientName=Conference%20Board%20of%20Canada&caption=Women%20in%20Leadership%20&title=CONFERENCE%20BOARD%20OF%20CANADA%20%2D%20Young%20women%20face%20barriers%20to%20workplace%20advancement&headline=Young%20women%20face%20barriers%20to%20workplace%20advancement
Image with caption: "Whether Millennials Are Satisfied With Their Career Progression. (CNW Group/Conference Board of Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20131219_C5769_PHOTO_EN_35171.jpg
SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada
For further information:
Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221