The Log In Your Eye: Eliminating Gender Bias In Mediator Performance Evaluations

The hot-button issue of mediator credentialing and credentialing seems to be on the minds of many folks in the ADR field these days. It has generated discussion, here and on other blogs (including Tammy Lenski’s, Vickie Pynchon’s and Philip Loree’s).

Although I have not ruled out my support entirely for public credentialing for mediators in private practice, I have concerns aplenty not only about the wisdom and necessity of such schemes, but also about the challenges in establishing workable and meaningful ones – concerns which I would need to see fully addressed before I’d give my thumbs up.

Public credentialing of mediators will necessarily involve some kind of evaluation process – which raises a whole host of vexing questions. Among the many that I anticipate is one that particularly troubles me: given the realities of implicit bias, and the difficulties still facing women and minorities in gaining visibility in the upper reaches of our field, what would be done to ensure that any evaluation of mediators is free from it?

While sorting through the email that piled up while I was away on vacation during the first 10 days in August, I came across a message from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession announcing that the latest issue of the electronic version of Perspectives, their quarterly magazine, was now available. It got me thinking. In that issue is an article by employment attorney Consuela Pinto, “Eliminating Barriers to Women’s Advancement: Focus on the Performance Evaluation Process“.

Emphasizing the importance of awareness-raising, Pinto sets out her recommendations for creating a bias-free evaluation process – recommendations that may transfer readily to a very different profession, mediation. I particularly like Pinto’s tips for evaluators:

  • Get educated about gender bias and examine your own biases.
  • Base your comments on actual performance and not potential.
  • Comment only on performance during the period under review.
  • Base your assessment on factual examples of behavior.
  • Weigh individual competencies similarly for all evaluatees regardless of gender.
  • Avoid using derogatory, disrespectful, or overtly biased comments.
  • Avoid basing comments or scores on the evaluatee’s adherence or failure to adhere to traditional gender stereotypes.
  • Review completed evaluations for consistency and objectivity.
                        author

Diane J. Levin

Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property… MORE >

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