Removing Gender Bias from Leadership Assessments

Breakthroughs happen when many viewpoints come together on a project. Great leadership can be found in people of all backgrounds, if only we are able to spot it. Yet despite the benefits of a diverse workforce, many employers inadvertently perpetuate outdated practices that limit the opportunities of women and members of minority groups.

Our unconscious biases can make us miss out on top talent when we consider candidates based on gender and external social factors rather than merit. However, assessment tools such as Authess can help mitigate some of these biases in leadership assessment, resulting in better hiring and promotion practices that will ultimately benefit your business.

What is Gender Bias?

Whether or not we are aware of them, we all have biases of some kind. Through social language and our cultural environment in general, everyone develops an idea of how the world is and how it should work.

Gender bias is a major factor impacting an organization’s assessment practices. Simply put: a gender bias is the belief, conscious or unconscious, that a person of one gender is inherently more or less capable of a certain kind of role or task than a member of another gender. In the corporate world, men are often hired and promoted over more qualified female counterparts.

Some of the ways this occurs during the hiring and promoting processes are as follows:

  • We hire ourselves. It’s just human nature: if we are an employer looking to hire or promote someone, we tend to favor candidates who remind us of ourselves. This means that for the 95.2% of companies with a male CEO (according to one Fortune 500 statistic), hiring and promotions are going to be doled out disproportionately to male employees, regardless of merit.

  • We hire to prioritize the company culture. It is important to curate a strong team aligned with the values of an organization. But this emphasis on cultural similarity can result in diminished diversity for any company, if hiring and promotion practices prioritize the traditions of the business over talent and new thought.

  • We use an outdated interview process. As objective as we’d like to think we are, problematic social biases will always creep into any in-person conversation we have. Our evaluation of a candidates’ achievements will be skewed by our perception of them as a person, including our responses to their race and gender.

A Success Story

In the 1970s, on average 95% of all orchestra chairs in the U.S. were filled by men, despite the fact that half of symphony-level musicians were women (Harvard Kennedy School). It is safe to say that gender bias was a major reason for this surprising statistic. In 1993, thanks to a series of experiments which changed audition practices for eight American orchestras, the percentage of women sitting in symphonies increased to 21%(Harvard Kennedy School).

Here’s what happened:

In order to eliminate gender bias from the audition process, orchestras began to hold “blind auditions.” Candidates would walk from a backstage waiting room onto the stage, which was obscured by a large curtain from the view of the symphony directors. This gave the musicians an opportunity to showcase their raw talent without social biases coming into play.

The experiment wasn’t completely successful in the beginning, since female auditionees tended to wear high-heeled shoes to these events, and the telltale click of their footwear on the wooden floor gave them away. Gender bias re-entered the audition process, however subconscious it may have been.

Many orchestras now ask musicians to take off their shoes, or have them walk across a carpet, thus removing a seemingly innocuous trigger for gender bias and discrimination.

How Businesses Benefit

It is easy to think of the issues of gender bias and gender equity only in ideological terms. However, merit-based hiring and leadership assessments are not only more fair to candidates; they also  benefit individual businesses and stimulate the global economy. According to one McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing gender equality may contribute as much as an additional $12 trillion to the GDP by 2025.

Diverse teams stimulate creative and innovative thinking, bringing new perspectives and solutions to the table. They outperform homogenous groups, and ultimately elevate company bottom-lines. By removing gender bias, an organization ensures that ideal candidates rise to the top during the hiring process and that top talent rises to the top of the organization over time.

How Authess Removes Gender Bias from Leadership Assessments

Authess uses machine learning and data analytics to deliver problem-based assessments of talent, leaving out human factors such as gender. This scientific approach to assessment mitigates potential gender bias and allows companies to evaluate talent and leadership candidates purely on  merit. This way, candidates are chosen based on skills, not on an interview or other conventional evaluation methods skewed by problematic gender dynamics. Authess reliably assesses critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can identify high potential regardless of someone’s demographics or pedigree.

Removing gender bias from company assessment practices helps to identify potential, maximize human capital, and elevate the organization’s bottom line. For more information about the assessments Authess can offer your business schedule a demo here to see our bias-free solution in action.