Gender Bias in the Workplace: It Starts in Recruiting

By Caroline Roberson on June 9, 2022

What you can do to improve gender bias in the workplace today

Women in the workplace face frustrating biases that result in lower salaries, fewer promotions, and more difficulty landing a job. No matter where you get your data, the numbers are consistently depressing. Gender bias exists. For example:

  • In Fortune 500 companies, men account for 80% of corporate leadership positions and 94% of CEOs.
  • 42% of women in the United States say they have faced gender discrimination on the job, including 7% who were denied a job or promotion due to their gender.
  • Women are 22% less likely to reach manager level than their male peers, regardless of their qualifications.
  • Women employed in majority-male workplaces are more likely to say their gender has made it harder for them to get ahead at work, and report experiencing gender discrimination at significantly higher rates.
  • In one comparison of identical resumes that only differed in a name (Simon vs. Susan) Simon was more likely to be interviewed, and more likely to be hired than Susan. The comparison also found that recruiters who hire more than 20 people per year were more likely to make gender-biased decisions.

Gender bias is especially prominent in STEM fields, where half of the women report facing discrimination in recruitment, hiring, and promotion.

Letting go of gender bias

Along with underscoring a broad and systemic problem, the above data shows that gender discrimination can begin in recruiting. While most recruiters and hiring managers may not think they are biased in their decision-making, the data proves that recruiters do choose male candidates over female candidates, even when the recruiters are women.

Unfortunately, gender biases in the workplace can be challenging to break. Common strategies like diversity traininggender-specific employee resource groups, and diversity quotas have been shown to have little if any impact on lowering workplace discrimination. Indeed, one longitudinal study found that diversity training programs may even decrease the representation of black women in the workplace.

However, one strategy that has proven useful is relying on quantitative metrics rather than gut instinct to help balance the fairness scales. When candidates’ names are eliminated from early candidate reviews, and interview decisions are made based on pre-employment assessment results rather than resumes alone, recruiters lose the opportunity to inject unconscious bias into the screening process. This gives women a better chance to get their foot in the door and prove their value to the company.

When companies use tools, such as Berke’s pre-employment cognitive and personality assessments, they get a Job Fit report summarizing how well a candidate’s skills and traits align with the company culture and job requirements. These results will objectively validate who on the recruiter’s short list of candidates is the best-fit choice for a position – regardless of their gender.

Assessments won’t eliminate all the gender discrimination that occurs in the workplace, but it is an excellent place to start. The further women make it through the recruiting process, the more likely they are to land these jobs, move up the ranks, and help their employers achieve the gender parity that so many companies today are seeking.

For more information on reducing bias, check on this actionable guide from Projectline, a Berke customer. It offers a step-by-step approach to reducing bias by creating thoughtful jobs descriptions and objectively selecting candidates.

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