Gender Bias in the Recruitment Process

Closing the gender pay gap, ending gender-based violence, promoting gender equality… these have been the hot topics of last year and it’s gaining even more strength now in 2019. Have you ever wondered why despite all that we know about diversity, companies continue to face significant challenges related to diversity and gender representation? Gender bias remains a significant barrier to women’s career advancement in Europe. It’s also very difficult to identify and prevent.  Human Resources practices can be designed to reduce the role of unconscious bias, and everyday managers and HR managers alike can counteract the negative outcomes associated with unconscious bias, especially on the recruitment process. Let’s go over the nuances of bias and the possible solutions so that we can teleport your company into the 21st century.

What’s the problem?

Let’s talk about definitions. First of all, bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Furthermore, there are two really prevalent types of biases:

Conscious bias (also known as explicit bias)

  • To be aware, intentional and responsive when it comes to explicit prejudices based on race, age, gender, gender identity, physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, and many other characteristics.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias)

  • Social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

It is important to note that biases, conscious or unconscious, are not limited to ethnicity and race. Though racial bias and discrimination are well documented, biases may exist toward any social group. One’s age (ageism), gender (sexism), sexual orientation (homophobia), physical abilities (ableism) and many other characteristics are subject to bias.

A Special Eurobarometer survey on gender equality was released about a year ago and it emphasizes that gender equality has still not been achieved in the EU Member States. It’s 2019, why? The numbers speak for themselves. Although 84% of the respondents to the survey considered that gender equality is important for them personally (including 80% of men), the survey also shows that more than one third of Europeans believe that men are more ambitious than women (35%), and almost seven in ten respondents think women are more likely than men to make decisions based on their emotions (69 %). As outlandish as this may sound, it’s a fact. This is especially apparent in the recruitment process, where in most cases women’s opportunity to get the job is cut in half, the minute the recruiter finds out her name or sees her walk into the interview.

Is there a solution to gender bias?

Hiring diverse teams shouldn’t be a box you check, it should be your innovation strategy. Most companies say they want to attract a diverse workforce, but few deliver. We know that deconstructing people’s biases is a tedious and long process. It’s 2019 and there are still people acting like cavemen. So, what can we do now? The only solution may be a radical one: anonymity.

Let’s go over two of the biggest trends right now in the HR circles:

Blind CV

We recently addressed the new way of developing a typical CV that does not include anything that gives information about the sex, age or ethnicity of a future worker. The great thing about this is that it eliminates any type of information that has nothing to do with a person’s work capabilities. This is a kind of effective management of the diversity and inclusion of workers at starting levels and is something that will possibly be implemented much more during this year. Places like IKEA have started accepting these so we’ll keep an eye on them. In 2018, they began to use it in Madrid and Seville as a test, to know the results and include them in more venues. Hopefully, this trend can keep growing.

AI or Digital Platforms for recruitment

There is such a thing as Intelligent Selection. Other than automating the interview process, it harnesses machine learning algorithms to make prescriptive recommendations using the evidence of abilities & experiences using data points from documents like CVs and application form answers without bias. Platforms like Oleeo or Eligo IQ, help you avoid bias and zero in on amazing talent with the right skills, experience, perspective, and attitude to drive real change.

Another example, GapJumpers, a Silicon Valley start-up, offers employers anonymous screening of job applicants. The idea is to reverse conventional hiring. Before submitting any documents or personal information, applicants take custom-tailored anonymous tests that take the specific job requirements into account. And just with the resulting test scores at hand, hiring firms decide whom to invite for interview. While, intuitively, blind hiring processes should lead to more objective decisions, they are not a universal remedy against all forms of discrimination in the labor market. For example, biased decisions can still be taken when applicants and recruiters physically meet, that is, in the interview stage. In that case, discrimination would simply be postponed. On the other hand, digital anonymous interviews are just one example of how to take advantage of technological progress to combat hiring discrimination.

So, what now?

In the future, digital recruitment methods may even become standard. For example, LinkedIn has just announced to use artificial intelligence features in the hiring process. And unless human programmers can insert prejudices and stereotypes in the underlying algorithms, which is already a topic of discussion that we will be reporting on soon, there is hope for objective recruitment decisions and finally tackling gender bias in the recruitment process.

 Will you be implementing one of these? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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