Managers & Supervisors Play Role

Consistency in Applying Gender Equity Practices

emotional intelligence leader eq 360 assessment eq 360 feedback executive encore gender equity Oct 07, 2022

Gender Equity Throughout an Organization

Every person at every level of an organization plays a role in gender equity. Every person has a vested interest in gender equity whether a woman or a man. One of the big challenges is to ensure consistency in understanding and positive action.

I have worked with many women entrepreneurs and executives who "get it", "work it", and "live it". They fully support gender equity initiatives and programs. They also attract allies (women, men, and other organizations) who are willing to listen, understand, and amplify the voice of women. Managers and supervisors in all functions across an organization and who are allies are in a very powerful position to address talent management inequities. I wrote about several of these inequities in a previous post referenced below 1.

Here are a few more..

Equitable Evaluation

Performance evaluations can make or break a career. Ironically, one very bad (botched) performance review ended my corporate career in 1992 and launched a new career and a new business. Unfortunately, performance evaluations are often based on criteria other than employee results and behaviours. The concept is fraught with dysfunction and disadvantages for the person being "evaluated". Ask anyone who has sat in on a calibration meeting. "The goal of the meeting is for participants to discuss the most important criteria to differentiate top performers; review the proposed ratings of employees, and determine the alignment with the criteria for top performers." 2 Even when an integrity-based culture is well established, equitable evaluations take time, practise, and commitment to helping people do their best work.

To bridge the gender gap, organizations need to review and update archaic and dysfunctional processes for evaluating performance. It's a good place to start. In some cases, a formal audit by a third-party assessor is required. 

For example, is the process effective in differentiating top performers without the risks of gender bias? Is the best practice of establishing a rubric and a blind review consistent throughout talent management?

Ultimately, managers and supervisors use their personal judgment which is often fraught with conscious and unconscious bias.  Assumptions, likeability, and group think (teams and panels) can influence the outcome of performance evaluations. Managers and supervisors who fully understand equity and who "get it" are more likely to apply fair and equitable standards, regardless of gender, that serve the organization and the people within.

Equitable Pay and Promotion

When managers and supervisors provide clear information—when communication is consistent, reliable, and transparent—compensation and promotion is much more equitable.

Here are several questions to consider:

  • Do all employees have access to median salary information for every position and/or their occupation?
  • Is access to salary information freely available or a dark secret? Or, worse, no consistency in salaries?
  • How much influence and flexibility do managers and supervisors have in awarding compensation and promotion?
  • Are employees aware of the who and how compensation and promotion is awarded? If not, why not, and how does that affect transparency and trust?
  • Do all employees have access to performance feedback? If not, why not? While it might not be a legal right, it is a moral right to know - 360 feedback is most valuable and equitable.
  • Is performance feedback aligned with specific business outcomes? If not, what's being evaluated to differentiate levels of performance?
  • How do managers and supervisors provide insight into what each individual needs to do to advance - a woman in particular?
  • Is there "a plan" for her development? How will she be supported within the organization to do her best work?  
  • How are we helping people develop and enjoy the returns of being their best at work and in life?

Team Culture

Day-to-day practices greatly affect retention of the best talent and workplace gender equity:

  • Consider the effects of stereotyping vs acknowledging individual capacity and capability. 
  • Review overarching and individual work/life challenges.
  • Consider the multiple dimensions or types of stigma attached to WFH (work from home), flex schedules, health and wellbeing 3, and family leave policies.

In many organizations, extreme dedication has become THE team culture norm. The current team culture norm breeds discrimination. Under the current norm, if you are not there or fully accessible 24/7, you are not part of the team. And, unfortunately, teams have a way of ostracizing or even excluding those who are deemed to meet the team group-think standards. According to Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg, authors of Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Wor4

“Women working flexible schedules tend to be seen as less committed and less motivated than those working standard hours, even when their actual performance is identical.”

Examining the organization's overall team culture, sub-team cultures, and working with managers and supervisors to intentionally shape healthy teams and applying "zero tolerance" to discriminatory behaviour, is critical to bridging the gender gap.

If you currently work in an organization or you have at some time in your career, I would love to hear about your experience in how managers and supervisors have affected gender equity. There are many rich stories that open up our perspective on this topic as we move forward in making the workplace a better place for everyone.

References and Resources

  1. Inequities in Talent Management: Understanding Equity vs Equality, Encore Blog - Category "Gender Equity", September 16, 2022
  2. Calibration 101, Why do managers and supervisors hold calibration meetings?, Human Resources, The Regents of the University of California, Davis campus, October 19, 2019
  3. Future Of Work - Addressing Gendered Ageism With Kate Milne & Susanne Grant, Menopause Affects Us All, YouTube, November 21, 2021
  4. Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Work, Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg


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