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How to remove gender from the hiring process

By Shandel McAuliffe | |6 minute read
How to remove gender from the hiring process

We know that a gender inclusive workplace brings benefits across the board – from higher employee retention and team motivation to increased levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing.

Yet, on a global scale, Australia’s track record on workplace gender diversity is poor. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2021 ranks Australia 50th globally for workplace gender equality, significantly behind many other developed nations. Conversely, Australia holds the top spot for educational attainment among women, signalling that there is a pool of highly-educated women whose skills are currently under utilised.

Advocacy group Chief Executive Women (CEW) recognises this, describing women as, “Australia’s most untapped resource”, noting that increasing women’s participation in the paid workforce could fill job vacancies and address the critical skills shortage we are facing now that is predicted to last until 2026.

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Could attracting more women to the workforce and providing more opportunities for advancement be a key part of the skills shortage solution? And if so, how can we remove gender from the hiring process and beyond, to create an inclusive environment where women can thrive?

When we talk about gender inclusion, it reaches beyond women alone. A Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) study found almost a third of workers who are trans or gender diverse had not come “out” to anyone at work. The same study found that in those workplaces where employees did feel comfortable in doing so, the workforce demonstrated strong levels of innovation, team performance and excellence in customer service.

While I see many businesses taking steps to become more diverse and inclusive, there is often a challenging gap between intention and action. The issue of gender bias in the workforce is complex. Not least of all because it also encompasses systemic issues, for example, the cost and availability of formal childcare in Australia.

When advising organisations on the importance of gender diversity across workplace teams, the hiring process is an important starting point.

Blind hiring

One strategy to encourage a diverse pool of talent is the so-called “blind hiring” process. Removing identifying information when shortlisting candidates, in theory, helps to eliminate human biases around gender or ethnicity.

In fact, a randomised controlled study by Applied found that blind hiring can introduce 60 per cent more candidates into consideration that would have otherwise been missed. In today’s skill-short market, that represents a powerful pool of untapped talent available to organisations with an inclusive hiring process in place.

Gendered language

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), gender-coded language in job advertisements can dissuade women from applying for certain roles, and even reinforce stereotypes about which genders are better suited to professions. At times, I have seen men disadvantaged when applying for roles in female-dominated occupations and industries, too.

We recommend organisations avoid gendered language throughout the hiring process and beyond.

Gender-neutral benefits

Offering “maternity” leave creates assumptions that women – and not men – will be the ones who take time off from their career to raise children. This serves to perpetuate the “motherhood penalty” that can see women overlooked for more senior roles on the basis of their gender alone. A simple solution is to offer “parental” leave instead. This subtle switch opens the door for all genders to have a career break to care for children, breaking ingrained biases in the process and providing a more inclusive environment.

In my experience, nurturing a gender-diverse workplace is both fair and ethical, and good for business. When women and other under-represented groups are offered equal opportunities, first during the hiring process, then later in the workplace, you provide a key foundational aspect of a happy and high-performing team. From the job interview through to professional development, workplace support and flexibility, removing the issue of gender and nurturing equality for all creates an overarching culture of acceptance, which is beneficial for everyone.

Nicole Gorton, director Robert Half

RELATED TERMS

Recruitment

The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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