Checking the Evaluator in Your Head

I watched a fascinating talk from Iris Bohnet to an audience at Google on various topics around gender equity and implicit bias, from marketing to talent management, from leadership to test taking. Nuggets I’m still thinking about:

  • We all have an “evaluator” in our head that compares experiences to whatever our internal reference point is. Bohnet uses the simple example of tasting and enjoying our current cup of coffee. As we sip, our internal evaluator is referencing prior cups of coffee and our past level of enjoyment to help assess how much we enjoy the cup in front of us. Awareness of this evaluator is critically important, it’s the bias we bring to all interactions, particularly hiring and other evaluative situations. We are unconsciously looking to hire or reward people like us, which creates preferential treatment and unequal selection.
  • In 2016, the College Board removed the penalty for guessing in the multiple choice section to level the playing field. Many studies showed female test takers were more risk averse than male test takers. Men are more likely to go ahead and guess on a multiple choice question, with a 1/4 of a point penalty for the wrong answer. Women are more likely to skip the question all together, which counts as a wrong answer. The College Board recently removed any penalty for wrong answers, the test taker now only gains points for correct answers, reducing the risk perceived by all testers.
  • In India, educating parents about the economic opportunities (jobs) available in the future (in this case, call centers) for their daughters significantly helped those families prioritize the care and nurturing of their female children ages 0-5, at no detriment to the care of their sons. I’m thinking about how parent messaging isn’t limited to a country with extreme poverty and gendercide, but how gender bias colors us in almost imperceptible but mounting ways against our girls.

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