- Male workers have "several advantages" over their female counterparts when employers choose employees to be included in leadership development programs, according to a study of more than 1,000 U.S. professionals by consulting firm Vaya Group.
- The company found 22% more men than women participated in leadership development programs, while 40% more men than women were informally assessed for enrollment; 39% more men were formally assessed and 35% more men were selected by managers for such programs. Women were more likely to need to self-advocate for participation in leadership development programs, particularly women in upper management and Asian women, Vaya Group said.
- Other findings characterized many leadership selections as subjective; Vaya Group said 63% of emerging leaders were chosen based on "subjective, biased and informal criteria" instead of a formal assessment. Fewer than 1 in 4 minority respondents to the study said that promotions were based on objective measures.
Learning and development teams have been given an important task in the pandemic era, according to a training consultant who previously spoke to HR Dive: helping employers build diverse and inclusive teams. But research from Vaya Group and others has shown that learning opportunities are not always equally accessible.
Taking a closer look at program structure may be one component of addressing the issue. For example, if an employer conducts its training program in conjunction with a partner organization, it could be helpful to ask that organization to produce data that can speak to the diversity of participants. Employers also may open up enrollment by offering tuition assistance or similar financial help.
Many sources have previously highlighted mentorship for its role in ensuring underrepresented employees have advocates for their development at work. Formal programs may help chip away at what has been determined "mini-me syndrome," or the tendency of employees to mentor those who are most similar to themselves. One 2019 Center for Talent Innovation found that 71% of senior-level employee advocates said their primary protégé was the same race and gender as they were.
As part of a formal mentorship or sponsorship program, L&D teams can implement guidelines around how much time participants are expected to spend with each other, how both sides can prepare for their meetings and how mentors can help without overstepping boundaries. More structured programs may directly assign mentors to mentees, sources previously told HR Dive.
New programs also need to be evaluated, and L&D teams may be able to examine data such as promotion rates in tandem with employee feedback to determine whether programs are effective in expanding opportunities.