Kark, R., Blatt, R., & Wiesel, V. (2023). A woman’s got to be what a woman’s got to be? How managerial assessment centers perpetuate gender inequality. Human Relations, 00187267231161426.

Why do women receive equal or better performance ratings than men inmanagerial assessment centers even when they are structured in ways thatsystematically disadvantage them? This study provides the first attempt tounderstand this managerial assessment center gender paradox using in-depthinterviews with managerial assessment center evaluators for a largesemi-military governmental organization. The study revealed that themanagerial assessment center was a gendered environment in whichorganizational practices, language used, and the underlying logic establishand reinforce men as assertive or protectors and women as weak and in need ofprotection. In accordance with the managerial assessment center genderparadox, women were successful at the managerial assessment center despitesystemic bias against them. Interpretive analysis revealed that womencandidates generate discomfort that evaluators alleviate by increasedattention to the extent to which they conform to gender ideology. We coin theterm ‘benevolence effect’ to describe evaluators’ tendency to over-valuateand advance women candidates who conform to traditional stereotypes of whitefemininity. The benevolence effect paradoxically contributes to thepreservation and perpetuation of the sexual binary and the idealization ofthe abstract manager as male-bodied in the organization, even as itcontributes to the promotion of women.