One Way to Reduce Gender Bias in Performance Reviews

By Lauren Rivera and András Tilcsik | Harvard Business Review | April 23, 2019

"Love them or hate them, performance evaluations are staples of the modern workplace. Quantitative ratings have long been touted as impartial tools for measuring worker quality and ensuring fairness in promotion and compensation decisions.

But more recent research shows that quantitative performance ratings are far from objective; while they may make the task of comparing workers easier for managers, they are riddled with gender bias. Research consistently shows that people give men higher performance ratings than women, even when their qualifications and behaviors are identical. Even artificial intelligence algorithms prefer men.

Over time, such biases harm women’s career prospects and contribute to gender gaps in earnings and the underrepresentation of women in top-level positions.

While evidence of gender inequalities in performance evaluations continues to mount, far less is known about remedies. In a new study in the American Sociological Review, we identify one potential way to reduce gender gaps in quantitative performance evaluations that is time- and cost-effective: switch the rating scale."

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