Identify both bad and good company practices and use this knowledge to guide your future career choices.
When companies deliver practices that achieve gender diversity those companies realize upside benefits. Likewise, when gender diversity advances, research shows it places more women in favorable positions to experience job satisfaction and offers them greater potential for career growth.
In this and the next post, we will cover initiatives which result in greater gender diversity and common practices that, according to the latest research, fall short of achieving their desired outcomes. Having knowledge of each will allow you to identify those practices which organizations implement and use this knowledge to guide future career choices.
Not all diversity initiatives work. Oftentimes, companies attempt greater diversity for the wrong reasons and those misguided efforts result in unintended, bad outcomes. The following represent misguided efforts which fail to achieve their desired outcomes. When searching for a job, or considering a promotion, please be aware of a company’s:
– Diversity Training. Training for diversity is commonly practiced within organizations. Any mention of compulsory courses in diversity training, especially those forced upon manager by companies, is important to consider. Why? Because, they don’t work. In fact, they frequently backfire. When this happens, more often than not, they result in resistance and resentment. You should ask about diversity training and be aware of how these programs are implemented. Find out if they are required or voluntary. When diversity training is offered voluntarily to managers it CAN help improve gender diversity within organizations. When diversity training is mandated, or forced, it becomes a checkbox requirement meant to protect companies against the potential of discrimination lawsuits.
– Employment Testing. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Some 40% of companies now try to fight bias with mandatory hiring tests assessing the skills of candidates for frontline jobs.” When testing is required as part of the hiring process, it does not improve gender diversity within organizations. If testing is a required step when applying for a job you really want, go ahead and take it. However, before you do, be aware that hiring managers use results of such tests arbitrarily. Which means, they don’t test every applicant for the same job. One study we researched uncovered the downside of administering such tests of employment, “(Hiring) Managers made only strangers take tests and hired other candidates without testing them. Because decision makers…cherry-picked results, the testing amplified bias rather than quashed it.”
– Performance Metrics. Performance measures are widely implemented within organizations. It is estimated that 90% of companies use them to monitor, and attempt to regulate, pay equity and support decisions for promotion. However, in many organizations, the real motivation for using performance ratings is, again, as a defense mechanism to protect against lawsuits. The data show mostly poor outcomes for performance ratings. One study mentions that, “…interpretation of results tend to lowball women and minorities.” Another documented, “…how some managers generously hand out high marks to all employees.” This allowed those managers to genericize the results, which had the effect of negating them. Doing so opens up more options for managers to use whatever means are necessary to promote based upon subjective measures. The study wraps up performance as having less than desirable outcomes, “…managers work around performance systems, the bottom line is that ratings don’t boost diversity.”
– Grievances. Grievance systems and procedures meant to register unfair employment complaints also fail and have unintended consequences. These cover the “damned if you do-damned if you don’t” range from people not speaking up to being penalized for openly expressing their opinions.
In almost all of these situations companies have the best of intentions. Sure, they often implement these practices to protect themselves against accusations of unequal opportunity to ward off potential lawsuits. No one should fault companies for trying to avoid legal problems. However, when organizations focus on legal and rationalize liability protection over reduction, measures designed to eliminate gender diversity have the opposite result. They fail to succeed. This drives another unintended consequence, which is how businesses manage to fool themselves into believing several types of common practices, including those mentioned above, are actually working. In many cases, this prevents them from adopting gender diversity practices that have been proven to work.
So, while organizations may not know the difference, you shouldn’t fool yourself. Your career could depend upon knowing the differences between effective and ineffective diversity practices.
The next post in this two-part series will cover initiatives and practices that DO work. They achieve greater gender diversity and career gains for women.