Eliminate any Gender Gaps in Your Recruitment Strategy

Eliminate any Gender Gaps in Your Recruitment Strategy

The results of the sweeping study into biases in hiring practices among 100 of the largest companies in the U.S. has sparked some important discussions among my company’s recruitment specialists. The experiment involved a team of economic researchers who applied to more than 10,000 jobs over a two-year period using 80,000 fictional résumés. The “candidates” for open jobs had very similar qualifications, but their names were changed to suggest that they were male or female, White or Black. 

The study’s results found that discrimination based on gender was far less prevalent in hiring practices among the targeted companies than racially based discrimination, while revealing industry-specific biases (male applicants were contacted more often for manufacturing jobs, for example). This outcome may be because the study focused on gender discrimination in hiring for entry-level jobs, instead of at senior levels.

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report highlights the significant gap between women’s representation in the workforce (48%) and in the C-suite (28%). The numbers are even more concerning for women of color, who represent only 6% of C-suite leaders.

As a female CEO, this disparity in leadership opportunity matters to me. When does this bias seep into the recruitment process for senior-level roles, and which recruitment practices can we implement to eliminate it?

Here are a few action steps that I’ve been highlighting with my clients:

  1. Find the gap within your organization. A key first step is to recognize where gender biases might be impacting your ability to add top talent to your organization. Are women a significant presence in your workforce and in middle management, but underrepresented in senior-level roles? This suggests that you need to focus on your employee development and retention programs to create stronger pathways to high-level advancement for all genders. You’ll also want to review your performance evaluation processes to address any gender biases in assessments of employees’ communication styles, behaviors, and job commitment levels. 
  2. Study your talent pool. If you’re failing to attract diverse candidates for new opportunities, review and eliminate any gender biases in the recruitment process. New research from MIT  has shown that the language used in job descriptions has far less impact on addressing gender disparities than actively recruiting through professional women’s groups and women’s colleges to expand your talent pipeline. Also, pay attention to the information candidates will see about your company on all platforms. Who’s represented on LinkedIn or on your website? What are reviewers posting about your culture or work environment on Indeed or Glassdoor? 
  3. Check your screens. If you’re attracting female candidates but they’re underrepresented in the final stages of the hiring process, you need to assess whether biases are creeping into the systems you use to assess candidates. When symphony orchestras began using blind auditions, women represented 6% of the musicians in the five highest-ranked orchestras in the country. Today, that number has increased to 40%. Blind hiring in corporate recruitment, just like blind auditioning, means screening out any information in the application process that might trigger biases, whether conscious or unconscious, including names, hobbies, colleges and graduation years. But it’s important to pay attention to biases at all stages of the interview process, not only at the initial screening stage. Create structured interviews that focus on job-related skills, use diverse hiring teams, and consistently review the assessments used as candidates move through each stage.

Yes, gender bias does still exist. By understanding where it’s impacting your recruitment process, you can take action to eliminate obstacles to accessing the very best talent for your organization.