Gender Smart Succession Planning

Succession planning can be tough, especially if you try to improve gender balance. Perhaps your organisation has a simple system of succession planning by just putting a couple of names in a box, and invariably the box contains more men and three men are shortlisted.

Perhaps your organisation has quite a sophisticated system, but when push comes to shove a man is often pushed forward, and rules are bent. As a result – regardless of your efforts in HR – gender balance is not improving, and you see women leave your organisation as they feel undervalued and disengaged.

Succession Planning, is it all about the best person for the job?

Succession planning systems don’t always help to create a better gender balance. In many organisations it is claimed that it’s all about getting the best person for the job, and succession planning should be on merit. There’s a wide held belief that evaluation of merit is objective and gender neutral.

In reality though, human beings are guided in these decisions by bias. They are for instance guided by a mental image of what a leader looks like; usually male. They are guided by a mental image of how an ambitious, motivated, driven person behaves; usually behaviour this is more typical for men. They are often guided by which person they feel closest to, like best, or reminds them of their former selves; usually someone of the same gender.

No wonder then that, when processes aren’t objectified and challenged senior teams tend to rate male candidates higher than female candidates.  They just feel more comfortable, less like a risk and a better fit.

I am sure you are aware of these processes, but how to avoid them?

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