Gender distractions and Recruitment

Today was supposed to be the day that I really cracked on with either writing more of my book or at the very least reading more of ‘Flawed by Willing‘ – which incidentally is proving an exceptional read.  As is often the case I got distracted and today’s distraction was gender inequality. The distraction was reading this piece on why women feel less confident applying for roles  – and are consequently less likely to apply for roles where they don’t meet all the criteria. And less likely to apply obviously then means ‘less likely to get’.

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve been urging almost everyone I meet to read The Why Axis by Uri Gneezy. It sheds light, through proper field experiments, on some genuinely worrying trends in terms of education, gender bias and disability. For instance if you are in a wheelchair you are likely to be quoted up to 30% more for car repairs – as the garage will do an informal mental calculation that suggests you are unlikely to shop around. That simply scares me. By the way, if you are in that situation, then interestingly all you have to do is tell the garage you’ll be getting multiple quotes – they reduce the price back to ‘normal’ levels.

Anyway when we think of the gender imbalance in salary and seniority in our economy we quite often think of the ‘old boys club’ mentality and that being one of the prime barriers. It’s an invisible ceiling. I’m not discounting that as an issue, but what I hear less about are the facts surrounding recruitment processes. I won’t repeat the stats that you can find in the article above, but I was chatting to a very well respected recruiter, David Bailey, and he revealed the following stats… It made me wonder if it was about an invisible ceiling – or whether it was as much about candidate behaviour as organisational behaviour.

In the recruiters experience “On average it can take 8 calls to engage female candidates in a search versus an average of 2 calls for men. It’s not that female candidates are harder to reach, but can take longer to commit to considering a new role. Men are more likely to say ‘yes’ and assume they already posses the necessary skills to take the next step in their career. Generalisations of course, but definitely a factor that affects the delivery of diverse shortlists. Which leads neatly on to the need for headhunters to be aware of unconscious bias too….”

Women are less likely to apply for roles (in general) and then take longer to commit to roles (in general). I assume these two factors combined, if multiplied across the entire labour market, must be a reasonably significant factor in the nature of the composition of the workforce.

I’d be interested to hear from any recruiters that have a different experience to the above – I’d also be interested in hearing any bright ideas that people have for a fix for these seemingly almost entrenched issues. What would make the process more inclusive given the difference in behaviours? Or what would change the behaviours?

It’s a big issue masked by some other issues. They are the hardest issues to deal with.

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