Gender bias alive and well?

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When hiring managers have to choose between two equally qualified candidates, one male and one female, the man is more likely to walk away with the job, according to a new study.

The study by recruitment company Hays and diversity and employee survey specialists, Insync Surveys, asked 1029 hiring managers to review a CV then answer a series of questions about the candidate’s attributes, skills and probability they would be interviewed.

Five hundred and fifteen reviewed the CV of ‘Susan’ and 514 reviewed an identical CV but for one notable change – the name was altered to ‘Simon’.

The study revealed a number of interesting findings when it comes to gender bias.

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand said that at Hays they've seen “countless cases” of hiring managers who are presented with a gender diverse shortlist but select more men than women for interview.”

“Few would admit to bias but our survey results show it does exist – particularly in Australia’s largest businesses,” he said.

“It is also more likely in those who hire most frequently. This is an interesting finding since unconscious bias is more likely to impact decisions that are made quickly. Such managers would say they rely on their experience but possibly their decisions are less deliberate and therefore when an unconscious bias exists it affects their hiring decisions. In comparison, people who do not have as much hiring experience are more considered in their decisions.

“We also found that there is bias towards women in the public and not-for-profit sector and men in the private sector. This reinforces stereotypes of women being better at ‘taking care’ and men at ‘doing business’ and ‘being decisive’.

Deligiannis said the study shows that more needs to be done to educate hiring managers around gender diversity policies as well as getting commitment from senior executives to openly support gender diversity.

“But no amount of gender diversity policy promotion will, in isolation, overcome gender or affinity bias,” he said.

“Certainly there are still questions to answer, but we hope our findings are a catalyst that sparks continued and important dialogue about gender diversity.”

Key findings of the study:

More recruitment experience means more bias
  • Survey respondents who hire more than 20 people a year were more likely to interview ‘Simon’ over ‘Susan’ (65% vs 51%).
  • For hiring managers who recruited less regularly, the gap between ‘Susan’ and ‘Simon’ reduced to just 3%.
The bigger the business the bigger the bias
  • 62% of respondents from organisations with more than 500 staff said it was extremely probable that they would interview ‘Simon’; 56% would interview ‘Susan’.
  • In organisations with less than 500 staff this interview bias almost disappears.
We prefer candidates just like us – but still hire more men
  • Female respondents said ‘Susan’ matched 14 of the 20 attributes needed for the job extremely well, but ‘Simon’ only matched 6 of the 20 attributes extremely well.
  • Men said ‘Simon’ matched 14 of the 20 attributes extremely well, but ‘Susan’ matched only 6 of the 20 attributes extremely well.
  • Despite this, both genders were significantly more likely to interview and hire ‘Simon’ rather than ‘Susan’.
Public and not-for-profit bias towards women
  • 31% of public and not-for-profit respondents said ‘Simon’ had the leadership skills to do the job, compared to 42% in the private sector.
  • Public and not-for-profit sector respondents were also more likely to see ‘Susan’ rather than ‘Simon’ as having the technical skills (36% vs 30%) and leadership skills (39% vs 31%) to perform the role.
Organisations are still not serious (enough) about gender diversity
  • 56% of hiring managers said plans and resources need to be put in place or improved to help achieve gender diversity in their organisation.
  • 44% said their CEO is not serious enough about achieving gender diversity in their organisation.
  • 39% said their senior executives need to be better role models of diversity and inclusiveness.
For more, see the Hays/Insync Surveys report “Gender diversity: Why aren’t we getting it right”.
 

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