Evaluation bias and backlash: how unconscious gender bias hurts women's career progress and two interventions to improve outcomes
AuthorGenat, Anna Elysse
AffiliationMelbourne Business School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Dr. Anna Elysse Genat
In this thesis I investigate the impacts of unconscious gender bias on women in the workplace from the pespective of two types of bias: evaluation bias and backlash. I define evaluation bias as cases in which women are evaluated less favourably than men due to their gender. Similar to this, backlash is when women who behave in counter-stereotypical ways are evaluated less favourably, especially in terms of how likeable they are and how likely they are to be hired (Rudman & Phelan, 2008). In order to best understand the current state of the literature and calculate an estimate for the overall effect of bias, a meta-analysis was conducted for these two biases. This meta-analysis sampled a total of 151 papers which contributed a total of 203 studies or 822 independent effect sizes and an overall sample size of 86,661. Across all studies a small but robust effect of bias was found (g =-.10 [95%CI -.15, -.04]). A multilevel meta-regression was conducted in order to identify moderators that contributed to larger effects of bias. Larger effects of bias were found when the evaluator was male; when the work context was male or gender neutral; if the counter-stereotypical behaviour of the target was dominant or aggressive; and if the target was being evaluated on dimensions of likeability, their likelihood of future career success, or how hireable they were. Notably the year of publication had no effect on the measure of bias, which shows that across all papers sampled in this analysis from 1970 to 2014, bias has not varied. Results from the meta-analysis were used to inform two subsequent intervention studies, which focused on a method to ameliorate the impact of bias that could be enacted from either the supply-side (the job candidate) or the demand-side (the evaluator). These interventions were designed to focus the evaluator’s attention on the match between the job candidate and the role that they were interviewing for. When manipulated from the supply-side this match was made salient by the candidate using exact terms and phrasing taken from the key criteria in the job advertisement; from the demand-side a structured note-taking based around the key criteria was used. Results shows that the supply-side manipulation was successful in increasing the likability and leader desirability of the female candidate compared to the male candidate. Conditional process modelling showed that the manipulation increased perceived communality of the female target, which lead to better outcomes in terms of likeability, leader desirability, hireability, and future career success. The intervention for the demand-side was not successful, however it contributed insights into why demand-side intervention takeup rates in organisations is low.
Keywordsgender; leadership; unconscious bias; backlash; meta-analysis
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