Let’s face it; as much as we try not to, we all make assumptions. In fact, quickly drawing conclusions is a part of how our brains function but these assumptions are not always helpful. Bias based on someone’s gender can impact expectations and behaviours of ourselves and others and more broadly, drive culturally held power disparities between women and men.

Whether conscious or unconscious, gender bias can lead to the attribution of certain traits as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and can lead to stereotyping.

In the workplace, this can mean recruitment decisions are based on in-built assumptions rather than reality. This can encourage pre-determined ways of viewing potential talent that can lead to loss of current and future capacity and productivity.

A recent study conducted by Gender Worx and Hay’s Consulting tackled this issue head on. Over 1000 hiring managers received a resume for a candidate looking to fill a hypothetical Regional Sales Manager position. Half of the hiring managers received the CV of Susan Campbell and half received the CV on Simon Cook. But here is the catch – these CVs were completely identical in content.

The recruiters were asked to answer a series of questions regarding the candidate’s attributes, technical skills and the probability of an interview. Overall, results were even and gave a position nod to a change in culture and exemplified a level approach to evaluations of the candidates. Additionally, results found:

  • Hiring managers in larger organisations of 500 staff or more are more likely to make gender biased decision.
  • People who are highly involved in the hiring process were more likely to make gender-based decisions.
  • A bias towards females in the public and not-for-profit sectors.
  • Support for the concept of ‘hiring in our own image’ with females scoring ‘Susan’ higher and males scoring ‘Simon’ higher on most attributes.
  • Organisations have not put appropriate plans or resources in place to bring about gender equality.

Although the results were positive overall, it is important that those of us in hiring positions are made aware of how our own in-built assumptions have the ability to influence the way we hire. It is vital that there be stringent processes in place to guarantee the right person for the job is always the one who receives it.

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