Genat, A., Wood, R. & Sojo, V.
Melbourne: University of Melbourne Centre for Ethical Leadership
Research Analysis
Area of focus: 
Unconscious Bias

This report summarises analysis conducted by the University of Melbourne's Gender Equality Project on 84 studies into unconscious bias, conducted over the past 35 years and from a variety of countries.

Two types of bias are examined in this research: gender evaluation bias, where women are systematically devalued relative to men performing equivalent work to an equivalent standard, and gender backlash bias, where low evaluations occur as "reprisals" against women who behave in a counter-stereotypical (e.g. masculine or agentic) manner.

Using meta-analysis the authors find overall trends that women are judged to be less likeable, less agentic and less competent than men displaying the same behaviours or levels of performance, as well as being judged less desirable as leaders, hireable, and likely to succeed. These effects were observed when both men and women behaved in a stereotypically masculine way, and were more pronounced in male-dominated professions.

The conclusion recommends organisations take action at four levels, from awareness-building among individual workers to making macro-organisational changes in culture. The authors argue that workers should be encouraged to engage in more
"slow thinking", avoiding fast judgements through stereotypes, and that systems within organisations should be audited to detect embedded bias.