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Professor Kerri Johnson in the News!!
April 15, 2019

What Makes for Inclusive Working Cultures?

Gender imbalance in the workplace is not confined to the gender pay gap or number of women vs. men in senior leadership positions. It also has to do with subtler yet deeper cultural cues about who belongs and who doesn’t. For the most part, organisational cultures do not yet meet the needs of a gender-balanced workforce. Not only do mental models of brilliance and leadership mostly skew male, but policies and practices are also largely holdovers from an era when male-dominated professional contexts were unquestionably normative. Expected to “prove themselves” within a system that holds them to double standards, women often justifiably feel set up to fail. As a result, too many women burn out or second-guess their own suitability for leadership roles. The underutilisation and departure of valuable female talent come at a heavy cost to companies.

The second annual Women at Work conference, held in March on INSEAD’s Asia campus in Singapore, featured a session of research talks titled “Visibility & Fit”, which explored actions organisations can take to address this problem. The presenters’ research-based insights suggest that proactively developing gender balance is critical to organisations evolving with the times. It is also a priceless opportunity to nurture leaders in a way that benefits everyone, just when the race for top talent is intensifying globally.

Visual representation

Biased beliefs about what professional roles women fit are deeply embedded in decision making. Unconscious gender bias can affect our split-second sensory responses to another person.

UCLA Professor Kerri L. Johnson presented findings from her research on visual representation and gender fit. Johnson focused primarily on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, where stable and well-paid jobs are expected to be increasingly concentrated in the coming years. In this STEM context, women are dramatically underrepresented around the world.  

When Johnson and her team showed study participants images of men and women and asked which were likely to be in a STEM career vs. non-STEM (or administrative assistants in STEM firms), men were assumed far more often to have STEM careers. This confirmed the prevalence of the assumption that STEM is a place for men.

Beyond this, there is a more surprising finding. When Johnson’s team displayed faces of men and women that ranged widely in gender typicality, or the extent to which they looked masculine or feminine, she found that the masculinity or femininity of the face significantly predicted perceived suitability for STEM within genders as well. More masculine-looking men were judged more likely to work and succeed in STEM than men with less masculine appearance. Women with very feminine faces were seen as less STEM-worthy than those with less feminine facial features.

Click here for the full article.

Benjamin Kessler, Managing Editor; Clarissa Cortland, INSEAD Post-Doctoral Research Fellow; and Zoe Kinias, INSEAD Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour |  April 15, 2019
Read more at https://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-organisations/what-makes-for-inc...