How to Close the Gender Promotion Gap

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Women are falling behind men across nearly all industries and roles when it comes to advancing their careers. The gender pay gap is particularly prominent in the technology industry, with around five women promoted for every ten men. Even though promotions are critical for job advancement, fewer women are often at the top of the corporate ladder. But what is the issue? Is it due to a lack of motivation or something else entirely?

It isn’t due to ambition, as a similar percentage of women and men want to advance in their careers. According to research, the “Potential Assessment” gap could be a contributing factor. But what exactly is it, and how does it affect the gender divide?

Organizations frequently ask, “Would this individual be a good leader if given the opportunity?” In other words, this must be foreseen in the promotion process. Organizations try to predict this based on evaluating an employee’s potential. This “Potential Assessment” contributes significantly to the gap.

How? Because such an assessment is frequently subjective and thus likely biased, humans cannot observe potential. These prejudices are more pronounced against women because they stereotypically associate the qualities of great leaders with the masculine qualities of assertiveness and competitiveness, which are not commonly associated with women.

Due to gender bias in performance assessments, women not only do not receive feedback as frequently as men do, but the input they receive is frequently general and non-specific. Stanford University academics Shelley Correll and Caroline Simard examined several performance reviews for a Harvard Business Review article. They wanted to know why it was so difficult for women to advance in their careers.

According to the article, “Our research demonstrates that women are consistently less likely to get explicit feedback connected to outcomes, both when they receive praise and when the feedback is developmental.” Female employees were more likely to have their personalities criticized in performance appraisals.

Women outperformed their previously anticipated rating when using exams that gauge potential, resulting in poor forecasting outcomes. Despite this outperformance, women face an uphill battle in the promotion game. Their predicted potential ratings remain low, implying their position at the top of the table is not so easily obtained.

The good news is that we all have the opportunity to begin closing the gap. McKinsey and Girls in Tech’s fruitful research found three techniques that are likely to be effective:

1. Focus on Building Skills Quicker

Organizations can help female employees progress if they provide timely opportunities to improve relevant skills. As a result, ensuring fair access to training, high-profile initiatives, and other resources is critical. There is also a self-promotion gap, which is the difference in how female employees rate their performance compared to equally performing male colleagues. As a result, businesses should also invest in raising awareness and providing structured professional development that recognizes the challenges women face when advancing in their careers.

2. Make the Process Consistent

Not having a transparent promotion process breeds dissatisfaction and bias, exacerbating inequity. Organizations should invest in a transparent and open promotion process to avoid the often unintentional — albeit pervasive and highly destructive — prejudice. Direct expectations, such as “To be considered for promotion X, achieve Y first,” regular career conversations, and committees — rather than people — who decide on promotions will help encourage more fairness. While standardizing the process, make sure you don’t do anything that would invariably disadvantage women, have open conversations about bias and use bias checks throughout.

3. Put Money Into Hiring Managers

A direct manager is not only the person who is most familiar with an employee’s tasks, performance, requirements, and goals but also the one who may advise on which abilities should be developed and showcased. Being a manager can be tricky since good intentions don’t always equate to excellent management.

Poor management not only makes employees feel unheard but it also leads to inconsistent experiences. Inclusive leadership — a management style characterized by an awareness of biases and an active desire to challenge them — is required for effective management. Investing in managers is highly beneficial because they frequently play a crucial part in an employee’s progress. Managers may help their reports shine by providing focused advice that includes skill management and constructive criticism.

Recognizing how to close the gender promotion gap empowers women to reach their full potential while also benefiting the company! We must encourage equal access to training and development, a uniform framework for career growth, and more informed, inclusive supervisors to diversify our teams.


By Anne Tiedemann, SVP, People & Investor Relations at Glasswall.


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By Anne Tiedmann