Do you exhibit gender-bias during interviews?

Are you a male recruiter?

Do you discriminate against women during interviews?

Do you think that you might exhibit an unconscious bias against women during interviews?

On my trip back from Melbourne today, I happened to sit next to a highly articulate woman. She talked to me about so-called “unconscious bias”, and how it can lead to gender discrimination.

The lady works with high net worth individuals and tries to persuade them to invest some of their money in organisations that give women equal opportunities, and ones that work on improving women’s participation in the workplace.

My first reaction was to think to myself, you sound like:

  • a) A very nice person
  • b) A highly intelligent one too.

Then I thought:

  • c) I’m sure you’re doing a great service to women in our society… but.

Because my argument back to her reflects my experience:

“I just don’t ever recall discriminating against women during a recruitment process, and I have hired more than 30 people over the last 5 years”.

“I can’t even recall hearing another male saying that they discriminated against a woman during a recruitment process!”

“I mean I just don’t know anyone who would do that!!!”

But right at this moment I’m thinking about this post “Auspost CEO calls on employers to hire more young Muslims” by HC Online. It discusses a speech by Ahmed Fahour the CEO of Auspost to a Melbourne audience.

So I asked myself tough questions.  Do I unconsciously discriminate based on gender, race or religion? Do I discriminate based on whether or not the person has an Australian accent or on how well they might speak English?

And then I started thinking about those thousands of immigrants, who come to Australia with university degrees from their countries – and then follow this up by studying here in Australia for 3 or more years to earn great degrees from universities like UTS – and after all that, still struggle to find a job.

I have seen 100’s of resumes from guys like these – I’ve interviewed 10’s of them… and I’ve hired a few of them too. I can tell you that some of these guys are absolute heroes, especially when you consider how much they had to go through before securing their first job in Australia.

It’s a terrible thing but I just don’t know what the solution to it is. I’m talking about the obsession of recruiters, myself included, with all things local – that means local knowledge, local universities, local language, local behaviour, local culture, etc.

So what I’m trying to say to you is – I’m sure that unconscious bias against women does exist in some places but I just don’t know much about it – so I can’t talk about it.

But I can tell you there’s a degree of unconscious bias against people with “funny” names, who are from overseas countries and who have yet to find their first job in Australia.

Are they discriminated against because deep down and without really thinking about it recruiters feel they might embarrass the company????

Are they worried about the way these candidates might dress, the accent they might have, the food they might choose to eat, or do they imagine incompatibility issues about the way they might speak or behave around Aussie colleagues?

I don’t know – I would love to hear your opinion on this topic – any experience about any form of bias or discrimination during the recruitment process would be appreciated – I’ve written this article from my heart and so I hope to hear back with some equally honest, fact-based and constructive feedback on it too.

In a follow up article, I’m going to produce data from our Recruitment Software that might shed some light on this topic – stand by for that.


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