Diversity made easy

Small changes – big effect. How to easily get diversity.

Summary from the scientific study “Leaning In or Not Leaning Out? Opt-Out Choice Framing Attenuates Gender Differences in the Decision to Compete” can be found at: https://www.nber.org/papers/w26484

In most companies, promotions require initiative and that candidates prove themselves in the competition among the applicants. However, research on gender differences in preferences for competition suggests that this process leads to fewer women than men opting to participate in promotion procedures. A study has examined whether changing promotion systems from a standard where candidates must actively engage (i.e. nominate themselves: opt-in) to a standard where candidates must actively exclude themselves (i.e. they are automatically considered for promotion but may choose not to be considered: opt out) reduces gender differences.

Behavioral science experiments show clear gender differences in competition participation, depending on whether personal initiative is crucial or an alternative appointment system is applied. The experiments also investigated whether there were subsequent differences in the participants’ performance and well-being. The answer is clear: a system change has no influence on the quality of performance. People appointed for promotion are as willing, capable and satisfied as those who have applied themselves.

The results of this study support the general promise of “choice architectures” to reduce gender differences while maintaining performance and quality of life. The results also suggest that gender-specific differences in attitudes and promotions may actually be more context-dependent.

For decades, researchers and the human resources departments of large companies have been trying to find out how to achieve a gender balance among managers – with limited success.

Making a career means exposing yourself to competition. Some scientific studies have shown that women have a greater aversion to competition in application and promotion processes than men. This aversion to competition on the part of women has up to now been used as one of the explanations for their under-representation in management positions. The responsibility for this has thus been left to the women, according to the motto “fix the women”, so that they can make progress.

This new study now suggests that the context and nature of the competition will determine the extent to which women participate. If the competitive situation in experiments is such that all suitable persons are appointed to participate and have to actively withdraw (“opt out” option) if they do not want to get promoted, gender differences in competitive behavior are completely eliminated. In economic terms, this means that if recruitment and promotion were to be made primarily by appointment and active rejection, the proportion of women in management positions could increase significantly, and thereby increasing the internal talent pool.

In the debate about “fix the women” or “fix the system” this study supports the latter. It supports the assumption that changed framework conditions and rules of the game in promotion processes automatically change the gender mix and that qualified women thus also take part in the career competition. This is a good example of how behavioral design works and can make a significant contribution to the lack of qualified leaders.

How to easily get diversity

This is why GetDiversity and FehrAdvice & Partners have decided to cooperate in order to help, for example, transform recruitment and promotion processes in companies in such a way that Diversity & Inclusion in the future come naturally.

More information at: https://getdiversity.ch/en/kooperation-fehradvice-mit-getdiversity/