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Reducing gender bias in the evaluation and selection of future leaders: the role of decision makers’ mindsets about the universality of leadership potential

Journal

Journal of Applied Psychology

Subject

Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Rattan A;Savani K;Liu Z

Biographies

Publication Year

2023

Abstract

Extensive research has documented organizational decision makers’ preference for men over women when they evaluate and select candidates for leadership positions. We conceptualize a novel construct—mindsets about the universality of leadership potential—that can help reduce this bias. People can believe either that only some individuals have high leadership potential (i.e., a nonuniversal mindset) or that most individuals have high leadership potential (i.e., a universal mindset). Five studies investigated the relationship between these mindsets and decision makers’ gender biases in leader evaluation and selection decisions. The more senior government officials in China held a universal mindset, the less they showed gender bias when rating their subordinates’ leadership capability (Study 1). Working adults in the UK who held a more universal mindset exhibited less gender bias when evaluating and selecting job candidates for a leadership position (Study 2). In an experiment, Singaporean students exposed to a universal mindset exhibited less gender bias when evaluating and selecting candidates than those exposed to a nonuniversal mindset (Study 3). Another experiment with working adults in China replicated this pattern and added a control condition to confirm the directionality of the effect (Study 4). Finally, Study 5 showed that a more universal mindset was associated with less gender bias, particularly among decision makers with stronger gender stereotypes in the domain of leadership. This research demonstrates that, although they are seemingly unrelated to gender, mindsets about the universality of leadership potential can influence the extent to which people express gender bias in the leadership context.

Keywords

Gender bias; Leadership; Universal-non-universal; Mindsets; Stereotypes

Available on ECCH

No


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