Article: Unconscious bias - Fewer women leaders hinder diversity


Unconscious bias - Fewer women leaders hinder diversity

A gender diversity report suggests that only 66% of organisations have strategies for diversity hiring, however only 25% resort to real gender diversity targets.
Unconscious bias - Fewer women leaders hinder diversity

Any hiring life-cycle or succession plan should be based on credentials, abilities, and attitude to be fully effective. Ideally, it should be an emotion-free process with data driven approach and zero biases. 

However, the existence and impact of sub-conscious experiences cannot be undermined.

Affinity biases, which are unknowingly triggered, may lead to favour candidates who emit similar vibes as the recruiter.

Resemblance bias is where people are inclined to those who share their gender, backgrounds, experiences, membership etc. amongst many other influencers. 

It is an automatic and unintentional psychological connect based on culture, values, norms, gender or stemming from traditions. Sub-conscious preferences and repulsions come into play and indirectly impact decision-making to perceive and categorise an individual based on his/her gender and stereotypes.

The trends in corporate hiring have shown that if leaders and recruiters are mostly men, it is likely that sub-conscious prejudice will trigger resulting in higher progression of men than women. This eventually leads to stretch the spread of men outnumbering women across the corporate ladder. A gender diversity report suggests that only 66% of organisations have strategies for diversity hiring, however only 25% resort to real gender diversity targets. Given the awareness and propaganda around diversity hiring, organizations now are more cognizant of their gender ratios, but there’s much ground to be covered on this issue.

Gender equality and affinity bias:

When a recruiter has any resemblance with the candidate, it is highly likely to unknowingly develop an inclination towards him/her and pick them over other possibly more deserving candidates.

On the face of it, this may seem as usual and natural. However, hiring that is influenced by such emotional factors other than abilities and attitude may be deterring for an organization. When a position does not get the fittest, the ripples travel to the deliverables and ultimately, the efficiency too.

Event today, one finds mostly men holding the majority of chief executive and chair positions of India’s top conglomerates. It is also evident that there is gender imparity among key management positions in mixed and male-dominated industries. Though women constitute 48% of India’s population, yet according to a study done in 2015, women were less than 2% of the workforce when it comes to India’s corporates. 

A Dale Carnegie study about gender-based engagement explains about the gender balance and the diversity ratio in the corporate workforce.  It was found that while just 39% of women were fully engaged [lesser than the Indian benchmark of 46%], Indian male workers were way ahead with 50% of them fully engaged at their work. 39% of women felt they had an impact on the overall direction of their company compared to 52% of men.

One of the most indicative results was that while a strong 73% of male employees agreed that they were willing to put in effort to make their organizations more successful, just 57% of women had the same intent.

The study concluded that the expectations that women workers in India have from their workplaces were clearly not being met. Every organization needs its own unique development plan based on the findings of its internal gender assessments and surveys. With this knowledge, senior leaders could develop an action plan that targeted the individual, department or organization at different levels to help drive their desired outcome.

There are numerous strategies that organisations can apply to confront discrimination against women due to affinity bias. 

Some of the promising ones are:

  • Increase cognizance that can soften the effects of affinity bias and other sub-conscious biases. It could be achieved through prompts and training as reminders before panels make hiring decisions.
  • Leverage training to do its bit. Comprehensive training to the workforce on gender sensitivity fosters an inclusive culture.
  • Encouraging women to take up traditionally male-dominated fields helps to eliminate hostility in the workplace.
  • In organizations and industries that are traditionally gender-skewed, implementing quotas and gender targets can help achieve gender parity in leadership.
  • Organisations could have random audits about the structure of the interview to ensure fair interactions. 
  • Encourage women mentorships. Women leaders can play a huge role in recruiting and inspiring other go-getter women.  
  • De-identify CVs’, i.e. removing all demographic evidence in resumes or other forms of submissions could also serve well towards eliminating gender bias.
  • Maternity policies and benefits is another critical trigger, directly proportional to retaining women and cushioning the gender balance. Especially since various studies have shown that more than 40% of women drop out of work after having a child.

Given appropriate opportunities, women make great leaders and influencers of change in organizations. Perhaps, corporates need to have a unique development plan to leverage the potential of women to their fullest by adopting comprehensive and inclusive engagement practices. A genuine intent of creating a woman-friendly environment in the first place is the key to have a balanced mix and an optimum gender index. 



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Topics: Diversity, #EmpowerHer

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