No Fair: Are You Sure Your Recruiting Efforts Are Gender-Neutral?

March 8, 2018

Modern Hire

Most people would protest at the notion that they are sexist. But gender bias can be much subtler than catcalling and presuming who stays home with the baby.

Unconscious bias has a way of creeping into our daily lives in vague ways that can have far-reaching consequences. Unintentional or not, such bias can mutate your recruiting expectations and damage the quality of your hiring outcomes and can even have legal consequences.

HR practitioners should be well-versed in how selection processes are subject to the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures that mandate hiring practices be not just job-relevant and valid but fair and unbiased.

And having a diverse workforce is good for business. Many studies, including a recent one at UC Davis, have demonstrated that companies with a high percentage of female executive and board leadership are more successful.

Still, unconscious gender bias in recruiting practices can be working against your organization’s intention to hire and advance women. And because no one likes to think of themselves as unfair or biased, denying there’s a problem in the first place can make overcoming these practices all the harder.

Are your hiring routines as fair as you think they are?

Sexism isn’t the relic we thought it was

A 2014 study published by the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated gender bias as prevalent in hiring within science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Research found that:

  • Based on applications alone, managers of both genders were twice as likely to hire men.
  • When interviewed, male candidates overstated their abilities while women downplayed theirs. Interviewers failed to adjust for these practices and were twice as likely to choose male candidates.
  • Even when provided with evidence of a female candidate being equally capable, managers were still 1.5 times more likely to hire a male candidate.
  • When managers knowingly chose a candidate who had performed worse on a skills test, they were two-thirds more likely to choose a male candidate.

This research validated the harm stereotypes can inflict on the hiring process. Researchers recorded attitudes about women not being as good at math and science as men and bias against women who expressed anger or were perceived as too assertive. Many studies have found that women who promote themselves are perceived as less hirable, who are successful in a traditionally male position are often disliked, and who act decisively are often labeled as uncaring or coarse or worse.

Tackling bias

Confronting bias means being willing to recognize it exists. We each have some extent of unconscious bias, even as we wish we didn’t.

Train your team how to recognize and overcome bias in the hiring process. You can actively work to reduce bias in your talent acquisition and succession planning practices by:

  • Watching your words
    The very way you describe your job and what you want in a candidate can suggest bias. Using very masculine-themed words in your job description or listing requirements that are beyond the actual qualifications for the position can make your job opportunity seem unappealing or, worse, signal that women may not be suitable for or belong in the job. Take care that you are not prompting women to opt out of a job opportunity for which they may actually be well-suited.Careful job analysis will ensure you understand the skills you need in a candidate. Being clear about the job qualifications establishes relevancy and offers a kind of list against which you can compare each candidate increasing the chances that your applicants are evaluated based on their skills and potential and reducing the risk of unintentionally disqualifying or discouraging anyone.
  • Watching their words
    Candidates use different words to describe themselves especially candidates of different genders. Studies show that men tend to overstate their abilities, while women tend to undersell themselves.Evaluative methods that weigh candidates equally can mitigate these differences. Multi-method, pre-employment assessments allow you to rely on more than just what a candidate tells you. Providing candidates with a fair opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and combat any unconscious bias can provide you with more of the objective evidence you need to identify best-fit candidates.
  • Monitoring your process
    Fairness in hiring practices can be measured. Adverse impact is an unwanted and unanticipated result of taking a particular action. In the context of business employment decisions, adverse impact occurs when a decision, practice, or policy has a disproportionately negative effect on a protected group, even though the adverse impact may be unintentional. When adverse impact exists, an organization may be vulnerable to charges of discrimination.Adverse impact analysis explores the relationship between candidate populations to those hired and ensures your selection processes aren’t discriminating against any protected groups. Modern Hire provides adverse impact analysis as a component of our hiring solutions so our clients can monitor and manage the impact of their hiring outcomes on protected groups.

Not sure what to do next?

Need help measuring the impact of your selection process or understanding the risk? Want to know more about capturing the right data to ensure diversity and quality of hire?

Since our inception, Modern Hire has been a leader in partnering with companies to use selection science technology intelligently, empowering them to make fair, unbiased decisions about their candidates to create high-performing workforces. We’re here to help.