SmartRecruiters Blog

Mitigate Gender Bias in Hiring

Gender Issues at work has been a hot topic recently; from the sexual favoritism scandals of Best Buy and University of Arkansas, to a record-breaking number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 list this year (but 18 out of 500 isn’t exactly symmetry…).  Recently, I was a guest on DriveThruHR; a great daily HR internet radio, and we discussed gender biases – both in our own minds and in the larger workplace. Some argue that gender bias is preventing women from:

    • Getting their ideal job
    • Being paid fairly past their 20s
  • Being stuck in the “marzipan layer” of management below the C-Suite

A new study lead by Harvard University scientist Dr. Sreedhari D. Desai, suggests it’s not the colleague holding women back; it’s their wives.  The study showed that men with wives who did not work outside the home were more likely to:

    • Believe that workplace operates “less smoothly” with more women in it.
    •  See organizations where women are in leadership roles as less desirable.
  •  Consider women candidates to be less qualified for promotion/hire to a position than comparable male counterparts.

This bias, it’s hidden – it’s not something overtly, consciously done; and the truth is that we all have them.  Some more than others… however much they might protest to the contrary.  So much so, that a recent study shows that while 28% of working males and 49% of women still actively see gender bias as prevalent in the workplace; 25% of them concede to ‘tuning out’ educational training.  So, how do you, as a Human Resources and Recruiting professional, attune your hiring manager to being receptive and aware to potential gender bias and promote awareness?  If the actions are subconscious … how can we address it in our hiring and retention practices?

To illustrate this, Dr. Desai offers “Project Implicit” you can use with hiring managers and executives to show how we have subconscious biases.  Over the course of 10-minutes and simple, repetitive keystrokes; you can see how the conscious-unconscious divergences in associations between “career” and “family” words paired with “male” and “female” names.  At first, I thought it was slightly dumb; but over the course of the test I realized that even I naturally associated certain words with women, and the word “family” I consistently associated with men.

My results were a little different:  I had a slight bias towards females in careers over males; as I continued to try to associate career terms such as “salary,” “management,” and “office” with women-  perhaps because they’re things I like and work to have.  “Corporation,” however, I associated with men. Go figure.  While I think I’ve acted fairly to both genders under my professional purview; I’ve now made a point to make the following adjustments to my hiring plan and management practices:

Create an Inclusive Environment by ensuring I’m equally recognizing the little accomplishments made by men and women on our staff, or with the teams I’m working with; make a point of offering men the opportunity to ‘knock off early to go hang with their kiddos (or whatever)’ and not just women to ensure that both men and women have strong workplace sponsorship regardless of gender.

Mitigate Gender Bias in Hiring by focusing on credentials first.  A study put out by the University of Wisconsin geared at finding interventions for gender bias in hiring showed that by sharing credentials (work history, certifications, skills, etc) for those at/above the 25% mark of the required qualifications before they released name of the applicant, prevents the initial bias upon gender.  While this can make Social Recruiting tricky, Amanda Bonneau, a recruiter at Poise Inc., offers this advice when searching on LinkedIn:  “Click fast on the name, start at the bottom of the profile and if you like what you see in the experience?  Then move up to get the name and put it into your CRM and contact the prospective candidate.”

Decisions made about employment based on biases – conscious or not – rather than legitimate experiences and competencies are punitive to talent workers that then lowers morale, negatively impacts culture and translates into increased attrition and recruiting costs… so it’s definitely worth the awareness exercises to ensure equality in your employment practices.


Crystal Miller creates great Talent Marketing and Social Recruitment Programs at M3 Talent Consulting in Dallas. As an advocate for proactive social media in recruiting, she works as the Co-Host of #TalentNet weekly Radio Chat on Twitter/Focus w/ Talent Net Live. Crystal believes, “Candidate first.” 

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Crystal Miller

Crystal Miller, known on Twitter as @theonecrystal is a builder of talent communities, addicted to Instagram, and avid social recruitment marketer who also co-hosts a weekly radio show called #TalentNet Live. Visit her blog, to learn more.