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A woman’s work is never done: 6 steps for a gender bias-free recruitment and selection process

June 30, 2023
A woman in purple

Diversity and inclusion have become a hot topic in recent years, and for a good reason. Diverse workplaces perform better, are 35% more productive, and are proven to be more creative. Unfortunately, though, the gender gap in the workplace is only very slowly improving, especially in male-dominated fields such as tech.

Considering your selection process is the first gateway into your business, it’s a great place to start when it comes to boosting gender diversity at your company. But why is gender diversity important? And how can you make your recruitment process free of any bias?

Why is eliminating gender bias important?

Consciously or unconsciously, we all have biases. It’s perfectly normal — no one is completely objective. However, when gender bias infiltrates your company, it can have a serious impact on your business, and even on your bottom line. Research shows that organisations with a high percentage of female executives have a 74% return on assets and equity, and that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform better.

Even though it’s clear that gender diversity is beneficial for businesses, eliminating bias can be tough. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted! The situation is even worse in the tech industry, where only 10% of executive-level roles are manned by women (no pun intended). Focusing on removing gender bias in your recruitment and selection process can help tackle these gaps.

What can I do to avoid gender bias in hiring?

Wanting to get rid of bias is the first step. However, doing so can take some time and effort. This is why we’ve helpfully gathered our top tips for avoiding gender bias in hiring.

1. Rethink your requirements

As human beings, we have preconceived notions of what employees need to be like to do a certain role. You might believe that a manager needs to be extremely charismatic, or that a PR executive needs to be outgoing and extroverted. In many instances these can be correct, but not always — for example, did you know that leaders with very high charisma actually tend to do worse than their peers?

Unfortunately, we also have a tendency to correlate certain personality traits with gender. We think of women as more empathetic, nurturing, and agreeable, while men are perceived as more assertive, analytical, and competitive. This means, even before you conduct your first interview, you already have an unconscious image of the candidate you’d like to hire, including their gender.

How to avoid this? When you type up your job ad, truly think about what the necessary requirements for the role are. You can also delve into psychological studies into the kind of role you’re recruiting for and what traits are proven to be important. The Thrive assessment, for example, gives you the opportunity to add the traits that are important to you, but provides you with a few attributes that are approved by psychologists to be indicators of performance in a specific job. The benefit of this is that, instead of relying on your perception of your candidate, a personality assessment will objectively show you how your candidates compare on important behaviours and characteristics.

2. Make your job ads gender-neutral

Once you’ve thought about what will go into your job ad, it’s important to consider how you’re going to write it. Luckily for us, English is a non-gendered language, so half the work is already done. However, there are still some phrases that carry gender bias with them, and could potentially deter the perfect candidate from applying in the first place.

According to recruitment platform Totaljobs, there is an average of 6 male- or female-coded words per job adverts. In order to present a truly gender-neutral job description, make sure you’re avoiding these words and instead opt for ones that correspond less to gender stereotypes.

3. Anonymise your process

UK anti-discrimination laws mean that CVs don’t usually include a picture. However, while some unisex names exist, you’re likely to be able to tell someone’s gender from the name at the top of their résumé. By anonymising applications, you can avoid this bias and evaluate candidates objectively based on the content on their CV, without being influenced by gender.

You can do this either through your recruitment tool or manually by asking someone else to blank the names on incoming CVs before they reach you. If you use talent pool tools, most of them would have this feature available.

4. Consider who is conducting the interview

You’ve posted a fantastically inclusive job ad and handpicked the best CVs. Now it’s time for your candidates to shine through interviews. However, the managers conducting the interviews also impact bias significantly.

To minimise the risk of gender bias, make sure your interviews are carried out by a diverse range of people. Of course, you don’t need to have a panel of six for each interview — but ensuring there’s a diversity of genders sitting in on an interview (or even just reviewing it later) is a great way to cut across unconscious bias.

5. Invest in unconscious bias training

While involving women in the interview and recruitment process can be vital for gender inclusion in hiring, women can still have unconscious bias against women. Yes, you heard us right — women can also have harmful prejudices against their peers. So, inclusion of women in your processes might mitigate gender bias to a certain extent, but it’s not enough.

Having your HR and recruitment teams (and potentially, management as a whole) go through unconscious bias training is essential for providing them the most effective tools in becoming aware of these prejudices and stereotypes and steering clear of them when selecting a candidate.

6. Reconsider your evaluation tools

Are you exclusively relying on people in your recruitment process? Incorporating other indicators of performance, fit, and success can add an objective element to your decision, helping avoid bias. However, in order to do this right, you need to evaluate your current tools and processes and any potential bias they might promote.

If you use AI, it becomes even more essential to research and understand how your tool works. AI has the potential to help remove biases, however, it can also exacerbate them if used incorrectly. This article from RaspberryPi is extremely helpful in understanding the dangers of bias in AI and how to reduce them.

Many companies today incorporate aptitude tests in their process. This is a great way to receive an objective understanding of your candidate, as well as predict performance beyond gender stereotypes. It’s important to look into your psychometric provider and how they contend with questions of bias, though, as some assessments are not scientifically reliable and valid, which can be more harmful than useful.

Thrive works relentlessly with psychologists and specialists to ensure our assessments are fair, valid, and free of bias. Using our platform, you can easily assess candidates’ abilities and personalities, regardless of their gender, and gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses to help you make an informed and impartial decision.

Interested to hear more about how our platform can help you remove gender bias in recruitment and selection? Book a demo with us today.

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