Want to close the gender gap in your hiring practices? The gender gap is a serious problem in workplaces across the world, and it affects more than just women. Gender gaps in hiring — and gender gaps in pay and retention — lead to the loss of billions of dollars every year.
It’s Not Just a Woman’s Problem
It’s no secret that women get less pay for the same work. In jobs such as financial management, marketing, or law, women receive around 71% of men’s salaries. In tech jobs, the number of women hired is small in the first place. The number who leave is too high.
This gender gap affects everybody. Both women and men head up many American households. If women across the board were given equal pay for their work, it would amount to a massive raise for millions of people. This raise could pay off a great deal of debt. It could increase consumer spending and saving. Most of all, a raise for women could improve life for almost all working Americans and their families.
It Starts With Hiring Practices
What are the most effective hiring practices to eliminate the gender gap? Can hiring practices be changed by a tactic as simple as removing a candidate’s name from a resume or hiring “blind”?
Hiring “blind” may seem to have some initial appeal. In a music audition, a judge can listen to a musician behind a curtain. The judge can evaluate the performer based only on the quality of the playing they hear. Furthermore, blind auditions can also reveal severe bias. Software developers on Github accept women’s code 72% of the time when they don’t know who wrote it. When the developers know women wrote the code, their acceptance rate falls to 62%.
Still, what if an applicant can’t demonstrate their job skills by writing anonymous code or performing Chopin behind a curtain? Perhaps using another method such as a voice enhancer to disguise gender might work?
The short answer is, “Not really.” Hiring practices are complex. Complicated problems usually don’t respond well to simplistic solutions such as removing names from a resume. These solutions do help women get their feet in the door for a preliminary interview. However, as soon as women get an interview with a manager, the advantage disappears.
Methods That Work: Clear Selection Criteria
Part of the problem women face is in dealing with a hiring manager’s “gut feeling” about a candidate. Bottom line, a “gut feeling” often means “unconscious bias.” More importantly, a gut feeling is not the same thing as an actual job qualification.
Clear criteria can clarify the actual skills a candidate needs for job success. Not surprisingly, the best standards are based on valid data. For instance, consider the issue of hiring a teacher for an AP Chemistry position. If teachers with chemistry degrees get the best results, then hire the chemistry majors. Gender has nothing to do with it.
Objective selection tests can also help pinpoint personality traits that suggest a candidate would be a good fit for a position. An objective analysis, unlike a person, can identify these traits without gender bias. For instance, a CEO position may require a candidate to be self-confident. However, women who are self-confident are often read as pushy or bossy. Men, on the other hand, are praised for having leadership skills.
Studies show one crucial factor about screening tests, though. Managers need to commit to these results before interviewing the candidates themselves. Pre-screening helps level the gender-biased playing field.
However, gender bias in hiring may be affected by a relatively easy choice: Put more women in the hiring pool. More women in the hiring pool signals less-stereotypic perception that women are appropriate candidates for the job in the first place.
A Better Choice: Have Women Do the Hiring
Not surprisingly, when women evaluate candidates for a position, more women get hired. The reasons, however, are more complex than merely “Women hire women.”
These reasons explain why blind hiring doesn’t work. When women feel as if they have to disguise their names, try not to look too feminine, use avatars instead of their faces, or leave their names off their resumes, the message is clear. Women are not welcome.
More to the point, blind applications signal that the company’s management is fundamentally hostile to women. If the administration can’t be trusted to put aside their biases long enough to look at a woman’s qualifications, then why would a woman want to work there?
When There Are Nine: Women in Power
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was asked when there would be enough women on the Supreme Court, she answered, “When there are nine.” To those surprised by this statement, Ginsberg added that the Court has typically been made up of male judges and no one ever raised a question about that.
One piece of advice to female candidates for a position is to raise a question about that. It’s a wise move for women to ask about a company’s diversity. It’s an even more sensible move for the company to have a strong answer. Hearing vapid responses such as, “We value diversity here” signals a lack of genuine commitment. A better response would be, “Women make up 50% of our executive team.”
The Root of the Problem: Changing Company Culture
A 50% female executive team doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a significant shift in company culture, and company culture needs to change at some levels. Pay is crucial, but so is reputation.
One good way to minimize gender gaps in hiring is to equalize pay. Pay equality and pay transparency are crucial. Stopping the practice of basing an employee’s salary on their previous paycheck helps break the cycle of pay inequality from job to job. Making pay transparent also helps companies stop paying men more than women for doing the same job.
Being considerate about families also helps. Flexible hours and family leave for all parents will keep more women on the job. More to the point, it will attract more highly-qualified women to the job in the first place.
Reputation matters. Think about the recent blow to its public image Google recently suffered. Multiple employees allege that Google fostered a harassment-friendly “bro culture” that penalizes women. Is it any wonder many women choose to work elsewhere or work in other industries that value them as equal employees?
Ultimately, changing the gender gap in hiring practices can’t happen with an easy band-aid solution. It’s a complex problem. However, a company that truly values diversity is a fantastic place to work not just for women but for everyone.