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Blueprint for Change

Blueprint for Change

Our blueprint for change:

  • Conduct research to diagnose the ways gender bias is embedded in the culture of companies, including their people processes and everyday interactions
  • Design and evaluate the effectiveness of solutions to block the effects of bias on the outcomes of women and men in organizations
  • Pilot interventions in partnership with committed companies to test new ideas for producing cultural change
  • Develop tools to drive broad, sustainable social change

Conduct Research

Despite decades of attention, investment and well-intentioned interventions, the growth in the percentage of women in leadership positions has stagnated in industry, academia and government. Why has progress stalled? And how can we jumpstart change?

In 2013, we concluded a multi-year research project—Redesigning, Redefining Work—to reinvigorate organizational change. A major finding was that progress has stalled in large part because the culture of work maintains the status quo. Despite massive innovations in the workplace, many of our ideas about work have not evolved—ideas such as who is an ideal worker, what productive work looks like and who should lead.

Our current research identifies bias as a major mechanism that maintains the cultural status quo. Our aim is to move beyond bias and spur innovation.

The Center is currently conducting fundamental research into the ways bias plays out in actual workplaces. While past research has identified how bias operates at a cognitive level, our research uniquely uncovers how bias affects organizational functions. Importantly, we then co-design solutions with people managers to block the effects of bias and we evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions in order to scale for broad change.

In our first year of research, we have identified four critical areas of the employee lifecycle where bias shows up as an organizational function:

  • Hiring: Sourcing (recruiting, job descriptions), interviews, interview roundups (evaluations of potential)
  • Team interactions: Meeting dynamics, the valuing of contributions by diverse individuals, factors of team success
  • Performance evaluations: Managerial reviews, developmental feedback, calibration
  • Assignments: The allocation of assignments, with a particular focus on high visibility assignments leading to promotions

Design and Evaluate Solutions

We know that innovation depends on cultivating the best talent globally. Yet our formal and informal people processes often fail to recognize and promote the best talent. We are designing toolkits for mangers to ensure that their mechanisms for identifying, developing and promoting talent—irrespective of differences in gender, race, cognitive style, etc.—are truly meritocratic.

Our approach to change involves teams of individuals working together to design localized solutions that are small, actionable and measureable. By involving employees in the creation of solutions and designing metrics for measuring success, the goal is to empower employees to become change agents, thereby creating a culture of continuous improvement in blocking bias. This approach further aims to thaw the “frozen middle”—the mid-management layer of organizations that has yet to be armed with concrete solutions where culture is most likely to be experienced by employees.

Pilot Interventions

In collaboration with corporate partners, we have developed an evidence-based Change Model that describes how to deploy effective solutions to block bias in the above organizational functions: hiring, team interactions, performance evaluations and assignments. Our collaborative research sites include high tech, professional services and consumer products.

Tools for Change

Leveraging our Change Model, we have developed world-class leadership education for universities, corporations and organizations. We have four models to drive action inside companies:

  • See Bias/Block Bias

Our interactive workshops focus on solutions for effective management. Over 90 minutes, we introduce the concept of bias as a structural issue within organizations. We then lead participants through interactive exercises to illustrate how to block bias in hiring, performance evaluations and team dynamics.
We have delivered our See Bias/Block Bias education modules in person to over 10,000 corporate and government participants over the past two years. Participant organizations include: CalPERS, CHRO, eBay, Genentech, the Harvard Business School, McKinsey & Company, Mozilla Corporation, National Labs at Brookhaven and the University of California at Berkeley, the Professional Business Women of California, Schwab, the Society of Human Resource Managers, Stanford Linear Accelerator and VMware.

  • Online Voice & Influence Program

Our innovative online Voice & Influence curriculum offers videos, discussion guides and supplemental resources that give women and men the frameworks, mindsets and tools to empower their own voices and leadership, as well as those of women more broadly.
In partnership with LeanIn, Levo League and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the online curriculum has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of women worldwide.

  • Voice & Influence Circles

The Circles program is a cohort-based, 6-month leadership development curriculum. Our program trains Circle Leaders to empower their leadership in and beyond their groups. The training provides detailed instructions on developing their own leadership with skills such as story telling and team dynamics and on developing their Circles, including session design and materials development.
The program has been successfully deployed at two sites: Stanford University, under the executive sponsorship of President John Hennessy, and VMware. Both led to a significant increase in women’s perceptions of their leadership skills and engagement within the organization.

  • Seeds of Change

Building on the success of Voice & Influence, the Seeds of Change initiative aims to provide young women and girls with the knowledge, skills and frameworks necessary to navigate critical transitions in their lives, including starting college and entering the workforce, with a particular focus on STEM fields. Areas of intervention include: identifying and addressing key mechanisms underlying gender gaps in leadership identity, ambition and engagement; building resilience to gender-based roadblocks, both present and future; and creating inclusive conversations that recognize the diversity of opportunities and challenges encountered by young women and girls based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, sexuality and socioeconomic background.
This program has been piloted with local middle and high schools, as well as with a leadership organization in a weeklong format.


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