Can you recruit your way out of the gender pay gap?

Julia Nickless

By Julia Nickless

09 May 2019

Reports of a widening gender pay gap are causing concern amongst employers who value the contribution women make to their organisations. Some of the factors are societal in nature, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a ‘bias-neutral” environment within your own workplace.

Gender Pay Gap Image

We’ve blogged recently about ways to identify whether your organisation has a gender pay gap, and how to start to close it. Now, let’s delve deeper into one area you do have a lot of influence over — your recruitment processes.

Five ways to make your recruitment processes bias neutral

We try to avoid terms like ‘positive discrimination’ because they imply that women are being given an unfair advantage over better-qualified men in order to tick a box on the equality checklist. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our experience has been that traditionally, under-qualified men have beaten more skilled women to roles, so we advocate an approach that will always help you get the best person for the job, regardless of gender. Here’s how:

1. Understand the impact of bias on your business.

  • At board level especially, encouraging diversity is proven to bring benefits such as new perspectives and ideas, different behaviours that complement ‘male’ behaviour, and different life experiences — all leading ultimately to better financial results. Failing to embrace diversity not only means you won’t necessarily be recruiting the best person for the role every time, but you could also be missing out on the financial benefits of a gender-balanced workforce.

2. Educate managers and recruitment teams on unconscious bias. 

  • People are often unaware of their own biases, so diversity training can be a great way to equip teams and individuals across the organisation with new insights, helping them to analyse their ways of thinking and break the habit of stereotyping.

3. Encourage the use of gender-neutral CVs

  • It can be quite difficult to make objective decisions, even when given training about bias. In fact, just having the subject front of mind can influence our thought processes. And we’re not talking about blatant negative sexism here — an example of non-malicious bias might be guiding a woman towards a facilitating/customer-facing role because “women are good at that kind of thing” when all she wants to do is code. And women are just as capable of exhibiting this kind of bias as men.
  • One way to help your recruiters stay objective and focused on the applicant’s skills is to strip out personal information from the CV that might indicate gender. It’s not fool proof though — a person’s career path and/or writing style might also give a clue, so use with caution.

4. Review job descriptions

  • Ambition can be seen as a positive in men, and negative in women. Do your job descriptions unintentionally describe a man, listing behaviours that female applicants might not identify with?
  • Take a look at the levels of commitment you’re asking for as well — a job that requires large amounts of international travel and/or evening/weekend working might put off women with families more than men with families. But for whoever takes the job, working like this long term won’t be healthy for them or their families. Should you be filling the role with two people instead of one? And could the travel be shared out amongst the team?

5. Standardise interviews

  • Ideally, interviews should be relaxed and friendly to get the most out of the interviewee, and to understand how they might relate to other team members. Too informal, however, and it becomes very difficult to compare the applicants, because they’ve all talked about different things – and that increases the risk of unconscious bias creeping into your decisions.
  • Coming up with a list of questions that you definitely want answers to, and rating the answers out of 5 is a great way to ensure that the applicant you select meets the requirements of the job description. Again, you’ll need to check the questions for bias.
  • Psychometric tools are another powerful way to keep bias out of your decisions, as the evaluations these tools make are based on algorithms rather than personal judgements. Again, be careful to ensure that you set these tools up without any inherent bias in the questions they ask, or in the success criteria you look for.

Here at Connor, we’re delighted to be leading the diversity conversation. Click here to read about an HR Leaders’ Forum we held recently focusing on leveraging diversity and inclusion (D&I) insights and creating a platform for cultural change that reaches beyond universal gender conversations.

Whether you need someone to review your recruitment practices, implement a gender-neutral CV process or deliver unconscious-bias training, Connor can help. To neutralise bias in your recruitment teams, give us a call now on +44 (0)1491 414010.


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