Require Diverse Slates of Candidates to Minimize Gender Dynamics

3 min read | Susan Colantuono

MinimizeImpactGenderDynamics_EXCERPTWhen it comes to overcoming mindsets that cause the leadership gender gap, one of the practices that we recommend is to require recruiters (internal and external) to deliver diverse slates of candidates for key positions. While companies often focus on senior positions, we recommend this practice be implemented for positions above the diverging point (the point at which the % of women begins to decline and that of men increases).

While it is intuitively logical, that this practice would contribute to more women being selected, the research of Iris Bohnet of the Kennedy School explains why. Comparing women and men in hiring pools minimizes the risk that gender dynamics (bias, assumptions, stereotypes) will result in poor hiring decisions.

As explained in the Wall Street Journal article, the study demonstrated that:

"... people who evaluated candidates singly were highly influenced by the candidates' gender. When various employees were considered for promotion at the same time, however, gender didn't affect assessments...

Individual evaluations also seemed to lead to poor hiring decisions. Some 51% of the employers who considered candidates individually chose an employee who had underperformed relative to the group. By contrast, only 8% of the employers who considered candidates side-by-side chose under-performers.

A possible explanation is that when there is only one candidate in front of a manager, the employer's context is often what's in his or her own mind, which may have biases. But when candidates are evaluated in pairs or small groups, employers tend to compare them to each other and can focus more on performance."

This suggests that for optimal organizational performance it is important for HR to present gender diverse slates of candidates for positions at all levels, not just for positions at the top.

Encouraging Diverse Slates

Here are three tips to help your organization present and capitalize on diverse candidate slates:

  1. Financial incentives: When Leading Women delivered an APAC-wide webcast with HR managers, one of them asked what cutting edge activities were going on in the region. A colleague piped up and said that they offer bonuses when the recruiting firm presents a gender diverse slate of candidates.
  2. Anonymity: Nia Joynson-Romanzina, head of global diversity and inclusion at Swiss Reinsurance Company, panelist on a Guardian discussion on closing the gender gap, recommended that recruiters present candidate resumes/CVs without names. This suggestion is based on the research of Iris Bohnet that we wrote about in this blog
  3. Up the ratios: During the same Guardian panel, "Tanvi Gautnam, founder of Global People Tree, suggested setting recruitment firms the target of finding one suitable female candidate for every two male candidates and if they can't, they need to have a suitable explanation why."

Requiring a diverse slate of candidates is one of many strategies that will minimize the adverse impact of gender dynamics on women's advancement. Want to learn more?

Do you have additional tips for getting and using gender diverse slates of candidates? Let us know and we'll share them.

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