Gender bias, often unconsciously, plays a major role in hiring and leads to irrational decisions about who gets hired or not.
Whether we like it or not, biases are a part of human nature – they help us simplify the complexities of daily life. We all generalize, make associations, have unintentional attitudes, and believe in certain stereotypes.
Today, we will talk about how hiring people based on their gender is a common bias. We’ll look at how it affects things, see some examples, and learn ways to stop it from happening in the hiring process.
What is gender bias?
Gender bias is considering that a particular gender is superior. This belief leads to favoring one gender or having a prejudice against another.
Gender bias comes from traditions, culture, family, or personal beliefs. It is often unconscious and difficult to notice. It’s also connected to gender discrimination, which means making decisions based on someone’s gender.
The reality is some people suffer unfair treatment or even get special treatment because of their gender.
How does gender bias relate to the recruitment process?
Now that you understand gender bias, it is easy to imagine how it affects recruitment.
Let’s say you’re hiring for a top job in a field like tech. This is a field that is mostly filled with men and, as such, you usually see men in those top positions. You might even think male candidates are a better choice, even if you don’t mean to.
Gender bias usually helps men, but it can also harm them in some cases. For example, if a man applies for a job that people usually think of as being caring or nurturing, like a kindergarten teacher or nurse, he might face bias too.
So, gender bias in hiring is more than just being unfair when choosing between qualified candidates. It also leads to unequal pay, a lack of different kinds of people in the workplace, and a culture in companies that favors one gender over the other.
Examples of gender bias in hiring and how to eliminate it
Gender bias in job descriptions and postings
The way you describe job openings is the first message to possible candidates. If your descriptions shows bias toward one gender, you might only get similar kinds of people applying. And this limits diversity in your applicants.
Also, a growing body of research points out that job listings with gender bias leads to fewer applications. And that increases the time it takes to fill a position and the cost per application.
To talk without showing any gender preference, avoid using words like ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Some words might seem neutral but hint at a specific gender. For example, ‘competitive and assertive’ might sound like qualities for one gender, while ‘cooperative and patient’ gives a different feeling. So choose wisely and choose words that don’t favor any gender.
Use text-analyzing software to make your job descriptions better. For instance, Ongig flags gender-coded or exclusionary words and gives you neutral words that you can use instead. You also get tips based on research for refining your text and making it appeal to a larger audience. Every change impacts how gender neutral your text is, as well as your readability score. So this way, you have a clear view of the quality of your job descriptions.
Gender inequality in candidate screening
Checking candidates before the interview is important. This is pre-interview screening. It helps you find the right people and saves time and effort.
But screening can also be biased. Studies show that even if men and women have the same skills, men are often seen as more capable. And as such, they are more likely to get the job.
As a result, women are 30% less likely to get a job interview invitation, according to a study conducted in Spain. Women who are really good at their jobs and don’t have kids usually don’t face as much discrimination. But moms have a harder time finding jobs compared to dads.
Use an AI-powered Application Tracking System. An ATS is an advancement toward a digital transformation in HR and getting rid of bias in screening. An ATS tool picks out suitable candidates using specific words, skills, and experience, without considering gender, race, or age.
If phone interviews are a part of your screening process, consider moving to a video interview software for one-way interviews. In these types of interviews, candidates record their answers to a set of questions. And these interviews are not live, so they are less scary and the candidate can do it when it’s convenient for them. The recordings also help with gauging interviewer bias because different stakeholders may review them at any stage of the hiring process.
Gender issues in job interviews
There are two main types of interviews: structured and unstructured. In planned interviews, questions are set in a specific order. In casual ones, interviewers might ask different questions based on what the candidate says.
A relaxed interview might help candidates feel comfortable and talk freely. But it can lead to unfairness and problems because not everyone is judged the same way.
In interviews, some questions about personal things like health, family, or marital status might come up, even if they don’t have anything to do with the job. You are free to ask these questions, but they can lead to unfair treatment of candidates.
Use structured interviews. They are fair and help you follow the rules. Prepare your questions beforehand to make sure you get all the information you need. Take inspiration from lists compiling the best interview questions and adapt them to every position.
Gender differences in salary negotiations
A possible reason for the gender pay gap is how men and women ask for higher pay. Men often ask for more money than the job ad offers. Society thinks it’s okay for men to do this because they are expected to be bold and look out for themselves.
Conversely, a woman trying to negotiate her pay goes against her social role. So women are more likely to face a backlash, i.e., to be considered less likable or hireable, when they act in a way that’s been traditionally reserved for men. That might explain why women are less likely to start a negotiation if the job ad doesn’t mention it.
If you have a clear and organized way of hiring, there’s less chance that biased decisions will be made.
Prepare a checklist for potential new hires to ensure all candidates are assessed equally. Structured interviews, tests for skills or alignment with company values, references, and background checks all paint a picture.
Make a system to rate and compare candidates. Use it to decide who to hire and how much to pay. This helps avoid decisions based on feelings or negotiation tricks. Also, check if the salary matches what others in similar jobs get before you decide.
Put salary ranges in job ads, be clear that people can talk about their pay, and don’t ask about their past salaries. This makes sure that there is fair pay for everyone, regardless of gender.
The effects of gender bias in the workplace
As hiring is at the top of the funnel for sourcing new talent. As such, limiting bias in it has a ripple effect in organizations striving for gender equality.
The opposite is also true. If you don’t deal with bias in hiring, your team and company might not treat everyone fairly. This can cause problems, making employees unhappy and less productive. It might even lead to legal trouble if discrimination happens.
We can’t get rid of old biases quickly, but we are moving in the right direction as a society. Companies today have tools and methods to fight gender bias, beginning with the first step in hiring new employees.
Evelina Milenova is a SaaS SEO and content specialist with experience in scaling and managing teams. She has worked in diverse niches including digital marketing, finance, HR, and IT. When she’s not in front of the screen, you’ll find her indulging in a yoga practice.