How to Prevent Job Search Gender Bias

by Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire

Most organizations strive to be gender blind when hiring. The focus is on finding the best talent, regardless of sex. However, even the best intentions can go awry, leading to job search gender bias.

gender bias

A 2014 study, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that when looking just at the paper applications of candidates with the same skill set, both male and female hiring managers were twice as likely to choose male candidates. Even when hiring managers were presented with data that showed the female candidates were just as qualified, males were still 1.5 times as likely to be hired.

While human bias—both conscious and subconscious—plays a part in the hiring process being more difficult for women, it’s also time to look at the system itself. You can change people’s perceptions and attitudes, but there will still be problems if gender inequality remains ingrained in how we hire.

Here are three ways job search gender bias still exists and what you can do to fix it:

1. Job Descriptions

When drafting job descriptions, HR professionals and hiring managers never include the phrase “Only men need apply.” However, many seemingly harmless words can carry inherent gendered connotations. These words can affect whether or not female candidates apply for certain positions and what hiring managers look for when assessing applicants.

A recent survey by ZipRecruiter found that 70% of job descriptions contain words that inherently depict the ideal candidate as male. Industries that are traditionally male-dominated are even more likely to exclude female candidates. In the business sector, 94% of job listings are skewed toward men, as are 92% of science, engineering, and tech postings.

Part of the problem here is cultural. Words and phrases like strong, ambitious, and analytical are unfairly associated more with men. No matter how far we go toward gender equality, it will take time for those connotations to change.

What can be done now is actively working to make job descriptions gender neutral. Be aware of gender-biased words and swap them out. For instance, instead of describing a candidate as someone with “strong decision-making skills” say “exceptional evaluation and judgment skills.”

2. Accepting Employment Gaps

Due to family obligations, women are more likely to take time away from their careers. The 2016 Women In America: Work and Life Well-Lived report from Gallup found that 68% of mothers who don’t work listed taking care of their children as a reason why they left the workforce.

Unfortunately for women, employers aren’t always accepting of employment gaps, even when it’s due to starting a family. The same Gallup report found that for 49% of unemployed mothers, the reason they didn’t have a job was because they’d been out of the game too long.

Stop dismissing candidates simply because they have a gap in their employment. Instead, take the time to determine their actual skill level and their willingness to undergo training. Considering how quickly technology and trends change in most industries, chances are no matter who you hire, they’ll have some outdated skills sooner or later.

3. Inflexible Interview Schedules

Employers have known for a long time that flexible work options go a long way in attracting and retaining female employees. The aforementioned Gallup poll found that 60% of women value work/life balance perks in a new job.

The problem is that the same flexibility is not incorporated into the interview process. Candidates need to find time to go through multiple rounds of interviews, which can be particularly difficult for parents. Many mothers need to weigh the chances of them getting the job versus the costs of childcare. And if a hiring process is overly time-consuming, they are forced out of the running.

The easy solution to this job search gender bias is prescheduled video interviews. Video interview platforms make it easy for both the hiring managers and the candidates to schedule real-time interviews. And if you want to offer even more flexibility, allow applicants to complete pre-recorded video responses. That way, they can answer your questions whenever it’s convenient for them, regardless of your schedule.

Whether it’s intentional or not, job search gender bias does exist. It creates barriers that make it difficult to find, apply for, and receive an offer for a job. But by understanding how the hiring process is prejudice against women, you can strive to make things more equal.

What are some other ways to avoid job search gender bias? Share in the comments below!

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.