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Project 360: How to strengthen gender equity in 10 Colombian organizations?

A 360 project is one that integrates Behavioral Research (qualitative and quantitative), Behavioral Design and Experimental Validation.


We used behavioral science principles to identify the barriers that impede the access and permanence of women to leadership positions in ten Colombian organizations. From this, we designed interventions to address the barriers found and evaluated the solutions experimentally.



Client: 

Comfama, one of the largest and most prominent "Cajas de Compensación Familiar" in Colombia.


Note: In Colombia, a "Caja de Compensación Familiar" or family compensation fund is a private entity that provides workers and their families with subsidies, health, education, culture and other services.


Funded by:

The Women Leaders Program of Comfama and Proantioquia.


Context description:

Despite efforts by governments and companies to close gender gaps through internal policy changes, Colombian institutions face an underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. By 2020, it was estimated that women had a representation of approximately 25% in management positions within the country, and 33.5% in presidential and general management positions. Ten Colombian companies sought to increase the nomination and retention of women in management positions. Combating gender gaps represents a challenge for multiple sectors of society and usually requires governments and institutions to use a variety of complementary behavioral change measures.


What we did:  

Within the Women Leaders Program, we diagnosed barriers that limited the presence of women in leadership positions within ten Colombian organizations and designed four behavioral interventions. After conducting a comprehensive analysis of eight organizational processes, we used behavioral science principles to create scalable solutions. These solutions sought an immediate and sustainable impact on the promotion of gender equality in leadership positions. The processes evaluated were:

  • Talent attraction.

  • Recruitment of leaders.

  • Integration of leaders.

  • Leader development.

  • Performance evaluation.

  • Remuneration of the position.

  • Fedelization from policies.

  • Internal perceptions of women leaders.


Methodology:

  • Behavioral Research:

    • Bibliographic analysis.

    • Analysis of administrative data.

    • In-depth interviews.

  • Behavioral Design.

  • Experimental validation.


Key Results:

  1. Attraction process:

    1. The use of masculine inclusive in nouns could generate friction in the application behavior of some women. Standardizing the use of non-exclusive language in calls for applications decreases friction and gender gaps in applications (e.g., "engineering professional wanted" instead of "engineer wanted").

    2. Presenting relevant information in video format, including female role models, increases women's applications for leadership positions and the positive affect generated by the call (without affecting men's applications).

    3. There is a relationship between understanding of the call and willingness to apply. Internal testing before releasing a new call to the general public and using checklists avoids forgetting to include crucial information in the call.

  2. Selection process:

    1. Including structured questions and measurement criteria in job interviews promotes greater objectivity in selection.

  3. Development process:

    1. Including checklists, follow-up and visibility will allow internal visibility opportunities to be evenly distributed.

    2. Pre-determined and blind evaluations during the development of women leaders increases objectivity in measurement.

    3. Providing quantitative performance feedback to the organization's employees enables men and women to rate themselves more closely to their actual performance.

  4. Transversal results:

    1. The generation of indicators to measure gender gaps is crucial at the time of recruitment, promotion, rotation, work climate and job satisfaction.

    2. Communication campaigns that report existing gender biases should be conducted with attention and care. A counterintuitive finding was found in some experiments: reporting a bias may increase the presence of the bias-related behavior.

    3. "Negative" feedback may affect motivation and confidence among low-performing participants. In contrast, presenting information about how the mind adapts and strengthens when faced with challenges (Growth Mindset) often encourages low performers to view learning as a continuous process of development, and to see mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement.


Insights for decision making:

The application of behavioral science is critical to overcoming some of the gender barriers in corporate leadership. Designed interventions, based on scientific principles and validated experimentally, offer valuable insights for strategic decision making in organizations. Behavioral science-based interventions not only promote gender equality, but can also improve organizational efficiency and foster a more equitable and motivating work climate.



 

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