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Lawsuits against big tech companies, like Microsoft, alleging gender bias have been regular and will continue. Companies will dismiss the complaints knowing that their policies and practices were designed to evaluate all people for pay increases and promotions equally. But the criteria that put someone in the plus category probably define traditionally male characteristics for one simple reason — men have dominated leadership and technical occupations.

Unconscious bias will also affect evaluators, male and female, who hold gender stereotypes for positions historically filled by men (and women). Men and women are also evaluated differently. For example, the general criteria for someone to be promoted might call for them to be competent and likable. But women who are competent are generally perceived as unlikable. So even though practices call for equal consideration for men and women, a hidden bias gives men an advantage.

I don’t know if Microsoft has adequately addressed hidden bias, but I do know that this is a problem that will be a source of many future lawsuits, and the companies being served will honestly believe they were treating men and women equally, but they were not.

Kathleen Brush, Seattle