Business leaders everywhere should be looking to recruit diverse workforces, given the overwhelmingly-positive impact, they bring to a company. However, putting this into practice can be more difficult than it may seem, and it’s often down to gender bias – whether intentional or otherwise. Here we’ll take a look at how such a notion affects the recruitment process, and what business leaders can do to remove gender inequality.
What is gender bias?
In general, gender bias is the tendency to prefer one gender over another for specific activities or tasks. It may be conscious or unconscious. Some bias may be down to personal beliefs, but centuries of imposed societal norms play a massive part in influencing those who display such preferences.
Gender bias in the workplace has a long history and exists in multiple scenarios, from hiring to salary levels and career advancement. Although gender bias affects all genders, studies show that both cis and transwomen are far more likely to experience gender bias in their careers than their male counterparts. Bias is so entrenched that both men and women are twice as likely to hire a male candidate.
Removing gender bias from the recruitment process
Gender bias can be seen across the recruitment process. It’s a huge challenge for just one person or business leader to remove all elements of bias by themselves, given there are examples that are easily missed.
Consider the following five points as the beginning of your journey towards recruitment equality, and be sure to garner the thoughts of a wide range of your current employees to check if there’s anything you’ve missed.
1. Job descriptions
Job descriptions are one area where gender bias may not be obvious. Be sure to include non-biased subject pronouns (he/she/they) and mix the order up throughout your ad copy. Less obvious is the use of words used to describe your ideal candidate.
Phrases such as ‘tech superhero’ or ‘dev wiz’ may have no intention of bias behind them, until you realise that just 26% of Marvel and DC superheroes are female, and ‘wiz’ implies the word ‘wizard’, or a male magician/witch.
Look into using a gender decoder when revising your ad copy, and the results were achieved by Atlassian, who saw an 80% increase in hiring women after removing gender bias from their ad copy.
2.Consider ‘blind’ applications
Improving gender equality in the workplace takes a multi-pronged approach. Consider the following – women are up to 46% more likely to be hired through ‘blind’ applications. These remove all references to gender, as well as race, age or geographical location. Employers have to make shortlisting decisions based wholly on past experience.
3. Diversify advertising channels
The digital revolution has changed the job advertising world forever. Printed job ads may still exist, but today’s candidates are far more likely to use social media and other tools to find opportunities. Furthermore, many will simply set up keyword job alerts that go straight to their smartphones, or be well connected with talent acquisition specialists. Job advertising channels need to be as diverse as possible in order to attract a diverse population of applicants.
It’s also important to note that men and women tend to have different approaches when it comes to their job searches. Women apply for 20% fewer jobs than men, which shows how important the wording of your job advert can be – get it wrong and you’ll be deterring potential top talent from even applying in the first place.
4.Make your interview panel diverse
It might be common practice within your organisation to have a group of senior figures on your interview panel. For many businesses, this will mean a lack of diversity being represented, given senior leadership figures are more likely to be male.
You’ll stand a much greater chance of removing any unconscious bias from your selection process if your panel itself is diverse and inclusive. People with different backgrounds will bring different perspectives, making for a more informed decision overall, and gender equality awareness is easier to achieve if a range of diverse opinions is listened to.
5.Focus on skill-sets
Every business leader wants to hire people they think they can work with. Although understandable, this approach may result in placing too much emphasis on common ground, shared interests or a candidate’s ability to excel at the verbal interview game. It’s all too easy to hire someone because they come from the same area as you, went to the same university or support the same football team. But in doing so, your actions display unconscious bias.
Avoid this by limiting informal chats and focusing on skill-sets.
Once we understand the concept of unconscious gender bias, it’s easy to see how tricky removing it from your recruitment process can be. Various forms of prejudice are sadly part of the fabric of our society, and overturning these takes time, awareness and commitment to addressing your own biases - conscious or unconscious.
However, an educated, open-minded approach to the issue can help bring your recruitment process into the modern world, and see your business reap the benefits of a more diverse workforce. For more information, see our article on why is it so important to remove gender bias from the workplace?