Executive Briefing

By Antonio Franquiz Oct 1, 2013
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October Cover

Managers Show Gender Bias In Views on Work/Life Balance

Supervisors tend to view their female employees as less able to balance work and life responsibilities than their male counterparts, especially in countries with low levels of gender equality, according to a study by researchers at the City University of New York and Manhattan College.

The study, which surveyed more than 40,000 managers in different industries across 36 countries, found that both men and women tend to judge their own work/life balance similarly, but supervisors’ perceptions are often based on gender stereotypes

These biases—which are often unconscious—stem from cultural norms that vary from country to country. Bosses in low-egalitarian countries across the Middle East and Asia tend to be harsher when judging female subordinates, while those in high-egalitarian countries such as Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands tend to judge men and women more equally.

The study ranked the United States ninth out of 36 countries in gender egalitarianism.

The cultural norms that determine bosses’ fairness in these rankings are based on how gender roles are perceived in a given country. In low-egalitarian countries such as China, men are expected to play the role of breadwinner while working women are expected to be both breadwinner and homemaker. This double standard can affect employees’ upward mobility.

"If you’re not recognizing talented women in low-egalitarian countries, it can hurt your talent management strategy," says Karen Lyness, professor of psychology at Baruch College & Graduate Center, City University of New York. "Our findings suggest that multinational organizations need to take a hard look at their assessment data to look for evidence of [bias]."

Lyness co-authored the study with Michael Judiesch, professor of management at Manhattan College.

To change bosses’ perceptions, HR professionals should benchmark their organizations’ representation of women relative to other companies that operate in the same countries and industries.

Doing so, Lyness says, can help ensure that women are well-represented when it comes to supervisor evaluations that can lead to promotions and other career opportunities for them.

The research article, "Gender Egalitarianism and Work-Life Balance for Managers: Multisource Perspectives in 36 Countries," was published online by Applied Psychology in June 2013.

Costliest Cities For Expatriates

Tokyo, Moscow, Geneva and Luanda, Angola, are among the most expensive cities for expatriate employees to live in, according to Mercer’s 2013 Cost of Living Survey.

Luanda, Angola, was ranked the most expensive expatriate destination in the world, largely because of its high real estate costs.

"The type of rental accommodations that international companies would be comfortable putting their employees in … is very expensive" in a place like Luanda, says Steve Nurney, leader of the Global Mobility Center for Excellence at Mercer.

Moscow and Tokyo are the second- and third-most-expensive cities to live in. An expensive housing market and a strong currency combined to drive up the local cost of living for expatriates in several Swiss cities, including Geneva, Zurich and Bern.

The survey, which was conducted in March, focused on 214 cities across five continents and compared the prices of more than 200 items in those cities, including real estate, goods and services, with those in New York City—the most expensive city in the U.S.

A more costly expatriate destination means employers pay more to send talent abroad. But, as Nurney explains, "even if a company isn’t actively looking to staff up locations with expatriates, it is a reality that they probably have to because of a talent shortage there." To minimize costs, he recommends that employers use temporary assignments until local talent can fill open positions.

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