Could Your Personal Gender Bias Be Playing A Role In How You Evaluate People In Your IT Department?

Is it possible that your bias could impact how you evaluate your staff?
Is it possible that your bias could impact how you evaluate your staff?
Image Credit:
Chris JL

If I asked you if you had any bias, I’m pretty sure that you’d think for a moment and then say that no, to the best of your knowledge you are basically an unbiased person. This is good news, but unfortunately you are probably incorrect. It turns out that we all have some bias in us and it seems to show up when we are conducting our annual evaluation of our staff. Is there anything that we can do about this?

Say Hello To Bias

So what’s up with this bias stuff? Don’t we all try to be nice people most of the time? Researchers have been taking a close look at how we provide feedback to the people who work in our IT department and what they’ve discovered is that we have been evaluating men and women differently. As you may well imagine, this is not good news.

What the research is showing is that we have a tenancy to critique our female employees for coming on too strong in the workplace and we are far too likely to attribute their accomplishments to being the result of a team, rather than their own actions. Doesn’t sound very fair does it? What makes this even worse is the fact that it does not matter if the CIO is male or female – we all show the same tendencies.

So now we need to deal with the big question: why are we being harder on the women that we evaluate than the men? Once again, the researchers think that they have the answers for us. The reason that we are not giving women enough credit for their accomplishments is because of our unconscious bias. These are our hidden beliefs about women’s capabilities that can influence the important workplace decisions that we make about them. These beliefs are why all too often women may be shunted into support roles rather than leadership roles where they could show their true skills.

What You Can Do About Your Bias

In all honesty, researchers don’t fully understand why we show such bias in our evaluation of IT staff. Therefore, they don’t have a sure-fire way for us to prevent us from being bias. They do believe that one of the reasons is that companies encourage CIOs to use vague criteria instead of specific measures to evaluate staff performance.

Many companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are trying to find ways to make their staff aware of their unconscious bias via training programs. At some firms, prior to the CIO writing up evaluations of staff the HR team will send out a one-page email to remind them about gender bias and to list out potentially loaded phrases that they should stay away from.

What the researchers have discovered is that when CIOs are reviewing their staff, women are 2.5 times as likely to get feedback on their aggressive behavior as men are. The studies have also shown that we describe women as being “helpful”, “collaborative”, and “supportive” twice as often as men are. Women’s reviews also have twice as many references to team accomplishments as men’s do. Clearly, if we’re not careful we will show a bias when we are evaluating our IT staff.

What All Of This Means For You

As the person with the CIO job, because of the importance of information technology it is your responsibility to evaluate the performance of your IT department’s staff each year. In order to make sure that you provide the best guidance to your team, you’d like to provide them with feedback that they can use in order to improve their performance. However, researchers have taken a look at how we do our evaluations and what they’ve discovered is that we have a lot of bias in how we do these things..

The bias shows up in our written evaluation of the people who work for us. The person in the CIO position has the responsibility to provide feedback to everyone who reports to them. When we create this feedback, researchers have shown us that we are 2.5 times as likely to admonish our female staff for aggressive behavior. We are also twice as likely to assume that accomplishments by our female staff are due to teams instead of individuals. The solution to this problem seems to be to make sure that we are reminded that we can be bias before we start to create our evaluations.

I don’t think that any of us want to evaluate our IT department staff members differently based on their gender. It appears that if we’re not careful, we will accidentally do this. In order to prevent this from happening we need to create a reminder for ourselves before we start to do evaluations so that we’ll realize that we have a bias and we’ll actively work to counter it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think would be the best way to remind yourself that you may have a gender bias before you start to do evaluations?

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Image Credit: Stuart Richards