Women’s career development is slowed by companies’ underestimation of their readiness to assume leadership roles, a Conference Board of Canada (CBC) study concludes. As a result, women lower their career expectations, harming both their own advancement and the companies where they work.

“This ‘unconscious bias’ means young women are consistently underestimated and overlooked, right from the outset of their careers,” said Ruth Wright, CBC director of Human Resource Management Research.

“Organizations need to implement objective and transparent talent management practices that guard against unconscious bias. Otherwise, the effects are both cumulative and costly—for young women who are denied access to critical developmental opportunities, and for organizations that fail to recognize and develop top talent,” Wright added.

Only 45% of Millennial women are likely to be identified as “high potential” employees, compared with 53% of their male colleagues even though women are more likely to be “high performers” (74%) than men (66%).

The study, “Overcoming Barriers to Leadership for Young Women,” offers several recommendations to protect against this “unconscious bias”:

1) Match high-potential employees with key roles using competency models;

2) Provide all talent assessors in organizations with education about unconscious bias;

3) Make performance evaluations more positive and open—millennial women are more likely than men to prefer performance evaluations that focus on work they have done well and ways to develop further.

Access the complete CBC study here. Add your thoughts about the study’s conclusions and recommendations. Join the GlassCeiling.com conversation.

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