“You women find it more difficult toward your path to directorship. You are naturally consensus builders. We are looking for a specific profile.”
That’s what the director of another department once told me after blocking my promotion. I was shattered. I thought the promotion was in the bag; my boss had told me so. I had crushed my numbers. The clients and the colleagues at workplace loved me. My VP and team had signed off. But when the director argued against what he saw as my “profile”–and then pinned that to my gender–well, the opportunity vanished.
Until then, I admit that I’d quietly believed gender bias was basically a non-issue, at least where my own career was concerned. But losing out on that promotion led me to finally face facts, and dig into the research–which shows, for example, that both men and women believe men are more likely to possess the greater share of leadership skills. Yet when that same 2012 study analyzed over 7,000 leaders’ effectiveness scores, gender made no difference.
And of course it didn’t. But perception is everything. And according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, we’re still a long way off from curbing the biased perceptions that reap fewer rewards for women who perform just well as–if not better than–their male colleagues. Rethinking how we evaluate performance, though, is a great place to start.
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