Is your company seeking to improve business performance? If so, increasing gender diversity might be one way to do it. Research from McKinsey that gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely outperform those that are not gender divers, and another study found that U.S. patents produced by mixed-gender teams were cited 30% to 40% more than other similar patents. If your organization wants to innovate and grow profits, it’s time to hire more women.
But how do you do that in certain fields in which the majority of candidates are men? The newest report from Glassdoor Economic Research, “The Pipeline Problem: How College Majors Contribute to the Gender Pay Gap listed the most male-dominated majors: Mechanical Engineering (89 percent male), Civil Engineering (83 percent male), Physics (81 percent male), Computer Science and Engineering (74 percent male), and Electrical Engineering (74 percent male).
Male dominated majors tend to pay more, contributing to the gender pay gap. Even within the same major men and women often end up on different career tracks, resulting in a pay gap that could follow them for a lifetime.
To level the playing field, it’s important to make sure your hiring process isn’t perpetuating the continuation of gender bias. It’s likely that this will require an active approach, as one study shows that both male and female hiring managers tend to prefer male candidates, even when a female candidate is more qualified.
Becoming aware of the bias already operating in your interview teams is the first step to counteracting it. In addition, creating a structured interview process, in which the same set of interviewers evaluate each candidate on predetermined interview areas will help ensure objectivity. Here are several common types of gender bias and how they might show up in your interview process.
- Men boast, while women downplay their experience. Men are less afraid of boasting while women often downplay their experience. Make sure to ask female candidates for more detail about their accomplishments.
- Performance bias. Male performance is overestimated compared to that of females. Even mothers overestimate the crawling ability of their sons compared to their daughters. If you take the name and face off the list of qualifications, are you comparing apples to apples?
- Potential vs. Achievements. Men are more likely to be evaluated on potential, while women are more likely to be evaluated on what they have actually accomplished. When looking at candidates from varied backgrounds, make sure you’re not unfairly keeping the men who don’t have direct experience in your field in your consideration while eliminating the women. Assess potential and achievements separately.
- Performance attribution bias. Women’s success may be attributed to luck, help from others, or hard work, while men’s success is attributed to skill. A man is more likely to be called a “genius” than a woman. Make sure your hiring team considers accomplishments of both male and female candidates equally.
- The Competence vs. Likeability Paradox. Women may be evaluated negatively for exhibiting characteristics commonly praised in men, such as ambition or assertiveness Likeability is often held to a different standard for men and women. Keep the skills discussion separate from the personality discussion.
- Maternal bias. Mothers may be passed over in resume reviews or not given equal consideration because of the perception of unavailability due to parenting responsibilities. Alternately, they may judged harshly for working too hard and not being there for their kids. Make a conscious decision to assume that the mothers you interview are capable of managing work and parenting responsibilities effectively.
- Affinity bias. Affinity bias is the preference for people “like me.” Interviewers may rate a candidate with a similar background or hobbies as themselves more highly than a candidate with a different background, even if that candidate is more qualified. Without awareness of the benefits of diversity, interviewers will naturally prefer candidates like themselves. Keep the focus on skills.
- Confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when someone forms an opinion and interprets new evidence as confirmation of that belief. An interviewer may start with a preconceived opinion of a candidate based on gender, and ask questions geared to confirming their belief about how a male or female will fit into that role. Make sure interviewers know that keeping an open mind in an interview is preferable to making it up ahead of time.
- Culture bias. Your corporate culture might include groups of people who enjoy certain downtime activities like ping-pong or visiting local bars after work. If those activities are dominated by one gender, be aware that candidates of the other gender will have to find other ways of being part of your culture. Focus on culture “add” more than culture fit, and screen for the cultural values that work within your organization.
Managing bias is a long-term educational process that takes patience and a commitment to self-awareness. If you’re tasked with educating your interview teams, share with them some of your own stories about how you uncovered and counteracted bias. Also make sure they know the business benefits of gender diversity as well as your organization's goals in becoming more diverse. And finally, take the Equal Pay Pledge on Glassdoor to let candidates know your company is committed to eliminating the gender pay gap.