- Knowledge Centre

How To Reduce Gender Bias In Recruitment

Gender Bias, or more to the point, the impact of gender bias remains very much in the news.  And for good reason too.

An organisation’s most senior leaders can easily promote the concept of gender equality, HR can implement the most sophisticated policy and procedures to espouse the value of gender equality for all, but turning soundbites and policies in to meaningful actions is somewhat of a different challenge.

Harvard Business Review published an article recently exploring gender bias, and one particular point caught my attention was the mention that making job applications anonymous, at least for the application sifting and selection panel members can create a significant difference in selection decision making.

For over 20 years, the idea of removing the applicants first name or even full name from the view of a selection panel prior to an in person job interview taking place (where gender can be easily identified by the recruiter/s) has been recommended as a tool for reducing the risk of gender bias by a recruiter or a panel of recruiters collectively. 

Of course, when a job applicant meets in person or virtually the interviewer or interview panel, bias can still occur.  Learning how to challenge and manage such bias is where real value is realised for an organisation and its recruiters.

Why is it the case then that so few organisations actually implement ‘anonymous’ sifting systems to reduce the risk of gender bias, and improve the possibility of actually demonstrating corporate values, which often include Fairness, Integrity amongst other values?

3 Reasons Anonymous Sifting Isn't Used To Reduce Gender Bias

  1. Introducing anonymous applicant sifting as part of a recruitment initiative will take too long, right?

    Wrong.  After the initial up-front investment in designing and testing the anonymous sifting process, all tends to run rather smoothly. Yes, the traditional approach to sifting changes, but your intention shouldn’t.  Identifying the ideal candidate/s for a role with maximum objectivity.

    One challenge we often observe when anonymous sifting is being used by a team of HR or Recruitment professionals is ‘I think this is a man’ or ‘This is clearly a woman’ comments.  These comments may be intended for entertainment purposes or simply reflect the ego of the individual making the comment; they are though unhelpful and lacking in any value for the organisation.

  2. Gender Bias In Recruitment Is Just A Fad

    Gender bias in recruitment remains in the mainstream news headlines not because it is a fad or flavour of the month, but because it actually exists.  In terms of the gender pay gap, we have observed some senior leaders, including Director level HR leaders comment ‘I think women are just not as good as negotiating salaries as men’, and ‘Women aren’t really cut out to be engineers’.  Those commenting were both male and female.

    What are these comments?  Opinions.  But they are subtly being presented as undeniable facts.  Sadly, due to the seniority and reputation of these individuals rarely if ever will a subordinate feel confident of questioning or challenging this thinking, so nothing changes.

  3. We Have Met Our Quota…Move On!

    Efforts to ‘get more women in to board rooms’ continue.  Of course, the presence of any individual being a member of a Board of Directors deserves to be earned regardless of gender.

    Whilst some research presents the position that women can bring an element of balance and a more caring, empathic perspective to a normally male dominated arena, others present that more women deserve to be in the boardroom on merit. 

    But isn’t there a risk, a potentially significant risk that affinity bias (old boys network thinking) would possibly disqualify a female boardroom applicant early?  Absolutely.

    This is where Directors, senior leaders and even seasoned HR recruiters deserve to have their preferences for applicants challenged, scrutinised and questioned intensely.  Why?  To reduce the risk of unconscious bias, or conscious prejudice, and reduce the risk of a ‘bad hire’ which may be costly for the organisation financially and reputation too.

If gender bias in recruitment is to be reduced and a more transparent, objective approach to identifying, attracting and appointing the best-fit candidate to an organisation is to be achieved, an organisation needs to do so much more than simply espouse the value of equality, diversity and inclusion for all.  Actions speak so much louder than words.

Want to learn more? Take a look at our unconscious bias training course.

It all starts with a chat.

When will be good for you?

Everyone was highly impressed with the facilitation and content of the training.
B Paniyatou
 - HR Manager, Capel Manor College