When “potential” defines career advancement, women lose out to men. That’s why?
In her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg says that the majority of men will apply for positions even if they meet only 60% of the requirements, while women will apply only if They complete 100%. ,
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Sandberg’s claim was later disproved because it was based on individual episodes rather than actual data—but these incomplete figures did not go away on their own.
The phrase has been mentioned in dozens of viral posts, articles and books and is often used to prove that men’s abilities are far more valuable than women’s. The idea resonated so deeply with some that its lack of factual evidence didn’t matter—it addressed a phenomenon that people have witnessed in their own lives.
Research is now emerging that indicates why the idea that women’s potential is analyzed differently from men’s seems so real to so many women. A new study has shown that women are often considered to have less leadership ability than men, making them 14% less likely to be promoted each year.
The research looked at a large US retail chain and found that while women receive better performance reviews, they tend to receive lower “potential ratings” – a measure of how much their bosses believe they are. May grow and develop in future.
It can be difficult to decide who should be promoted. Candidates need to demonstrate strong performance at their current level and their bosses must also believe that they have the potential to perform well at the next level.
But the potential is not easily demonstrated. The subjective measurements that determine this open the door to prejudice—and the result is that women are often disadvantaged.
Some argue that responsible managers are simply wrong and that their inherent biases make it difficult to imagine women as leaders. Others claim that women are also lagging behind for not promoting themselves.
But the issue of competence versus competence doesn’t just appear in the workplace – and the solution to this deep-rooted issue is not self-evident.
In recent years, there has been more evidence that people do not see potential in women the same way they see in men.
In a 2019 study, nearly 200 participants were given a selection of resumes for director positions at a fictional technology company. Half of them highlighted the successes achieved by the candidates and the other half highlighted their potential.
The researchers easily noticed a pattern: Participants often rated male candidates higher if they focused on their potential. For women candidates, the opposite was true – they were held to very high standards and their leadership potential was often overlooked.
“The traits that people commonly associate with leadership success, such as assertiveness and strength, are also commonly associated with masculinity,” says Professor Felix Danbold of the University College London School of Business. Diversity in the work environment.
“This, coupled with the culture where men already hold the most leadership roles, makes it easy for people to imagine that men are successful at leading. There’s also the benefit of the doubt.” Whereas women face doubts permanently,” he says.
Women make up about half of all workers entering the US workforce, but they still only fill 21% of board positions. The reasons for this bottleneck are complex.
Women are more likely than men to disrupt their careers, especially to prioritize family care responsibilities. They are less likely to apply for higher positions, even within the company.
But unconscious bias and the issue of merit versus competence remains a significant difficulty for women awaiting promotion.
“Recruiting managers may pretend they’re looking deeply, but they’re probably making decisions based on their gut feeling,” says Danbold. “It boils down to the fact that women are not prototypes for leadership roles, which means that managers are likely to have a hard time envisioning them to be successful.”
Do women restrict themselves?
Companies often underestimate the potential of their female employees, but many experts also believe that women underestimate themselves. Sandberg’s claim may not be entirely accurate, but there is certainly data to indicate that women are less likely to apply for promotions.
Data indicate that women tend to promote their work less, with their performance rated 33% lower than similarly performing male counterparts. Women managers are also likely to have less confidence and lower expectations of reaching senior management levels over the course of their careers.
Hiring managers may not have the potential in their female employees, but it is also possible that women are not using their potential as much as their male colleagues.
Suki Sandhu, diversity expert and CEO of UK-based inclusion and diversity consultancy Audelis & Involve, says, “Involved social behavior has made women more hesitant to apply for professional positions.
“They are more likely to self-deprecate and mention that they don’t have abilities, rather than shed light on where they are,” he says. “They are also more concerned with issues like proving their abilities, whereas their male counterparts are more confident on that point.”
The issue of competency versus competence does not only manifest itself in the traditional workplace. Zoe Chance, a professor at the Yale School of Management in the United States, points to politics as an example of how women’s potential is often underestimated.
It is common to see young male candidates in elections, but female candidates enter politics at an older age. Chance argues that this is because women spend years accumulating experience, achievements, and recognition before considering themselves as credible candidates.
Voters and politicians can do the same thing as hiring managers. “Women feel compelled to compete based on their background, while men may compete on their own vision,” she says. “It is no coincidence that the young politicians we elect tend to be men.”
The failure to see the potential of women is the result of decades of deep socio-cultural behavior. But is it realistic to imagine that this can be undone?
“The important thing is to focus on de-biasing the system and not relying on people to overstate their guidance, which would take too long,” Chance says. “Women are less likely to ask for raises and promotions — less likely to feel they can — and it’s important that women’s bosses don’t wait until they ask for something.”
The idea that women don’t present themselves well enough for promotion or talk unfairly about their potential puts the onus on them to solve the problem. In fact, we should be focusing on solving why women don’t feel able to apply for promotions – and how companies can make sure they are properly assessed when they are running.
For this change to occur, it is necessary to challenge our beliefs about what leadership is, but it can be a slow and intangible process.
Sophie Milliken, British human resources expert and author of The Ambition Accelerator, says there are practical steps companies can take to support their female employees and certainly rewrite the narrative of competence versus competence.
“You always have to consider the specific support that women need early in their careers,” she says. “In addition to development programs specifically dedicated to women, mentors may work well.”
“You can provide training to hiring managers to challenge their own biases and encourage them to have strong evaluation criteria,” Milliken continues. “Independent facilitators can hire and promote employees [também] Help us challenge trends creatively.”
Currently, the issue of competence versus competence is a problematic vicious circle. When people don’t see enough women in leadership roles, it can be hard to believe that they have what it takes to lead.
By pushing more women into senior management roles, companies can prove that their peers really have potential. And what they do once they get there can help the next generation of women rise to the top of organizations.