The Gender Divide: The Problem

In the first issue of this series we discussed how workplace gender equality is still an issue in the 21st century. How is it that we can put a man on the moon, but are still talking about women being seen as worthy enough for leadership positions? Despite ‘best effort’ attempts made by companies of varying industries, the reality is that women still lag behind men in executive ranks.

One of the ways companies are attempting to close the gender gap is by enforcing mandatory training attendance for their employees (covered in article 1). In theory it sounds like a good enough idea—“we can nip this thing in the bud by putting the entire staff in a room and telling everyone to play nice.” Unfortunately, life doesn’t work so neatly, and people don’t necessarily respond the way we’d like to think (hence, basic psychology principles). Mandatory training, oftentimes, results in backlash, resentment, and hostility for protected groups.

Another intervention commonly used to increase workplace diversity is applicant testing during the hiring process. Testing sounds like it would take the guesswork out of the hiring process, leaving the best candidate to ‘win’. Assessing candidates’ abilities through pre-hire testing appears to open doors for applicants that would not be considered otherwise. However, testing has its own set of issues.

First, hiring managers don’t consistently test all applicants; in many cases, white males are often overlooked. Second, even when managers test everyone applying for the position, many ignore the testing results and hire their favored candidate. Next, tests don’t necessarily look at the skills required to succeed in the role, negating the purpose of the assessment. Finally, and arguably most importantly, hiring tests can have unfair disadvantages for women and minorities without the applicants or employer being aware.

The Solution:

Although organizations have made attempts to standardize hiring processes through assessments, these efforts are working against the very groups they’re supposed to help. So what’s the solution? Here are a few practical steps to implement.

1.    Conduct blind resume reviews

To ensure candidates are given a level playing field, it is more important to look at their skills and experience rather than their demographic characteristics. Software programs are available to assist hiring managers at focusing on what’s important—looking at what each applicant could potentially offer the organization.  (For more about anonymizing hiring: and for suggestions on recruiting software:

2.    Conduct structured interviews  

Typical interviews unfold naturally through conversation, which is a fairly unreliable process for predicting job performance, as there are too many variables in the scenario. Asking the applicants the same pre-determined interview questions in the same order allows for a greater level of objectivity than unstructured, conversational interviews. (For more benefits and sample structured interview questions, see:

3.    Provide work samples

One of the best indicators of expected job performance is having the applicant complete tasks that emulate the tasks required of the position. A skill test affords both the candidate and employer the opportunity to assess role function and fit. An example could be providing the same job-related scenario for each candidate and having them write a response.

Bringing it All Together

           Current diversity efforts, as we know them, are not making the strides in the workplace we had hoped. Despite the fact that only 1/3 of the American workforce categorizes themselves as a minority, a recent SHRM report revealed that 41% of hiring managers state they are ‘too busy’ to implement diversity initiatives. (If what we are doing is not working, it is time to take a different approach. Creative solutions to typical hiring practices could shake things up a bit… for the better!

Next up, getting buy-in.

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