The gender pay gap has been on show - literally - recently, as companies above 250 employees have to report on their gender pay gap data.
This has laid bare the disparity in pay between men and women for organisations. Cue unconscious bias training to solve the problem. The question is, are the methods currently employed to fight things like bias in recruitment and pay, actually working?
The Behavioural Insights Team gave a presentation on the gender pay gap and what behavioural science driven techniques actually work to reduce it, rather than what hasn’t been properly assessed (or worse - can actually deepen biases - I’m looking at you unconscious bias training).
The key introductory point was that biases, and specifically gender biases, in talent acquisition, pay and assessment, are more frequently used when a situation is ambiguous. If a hiring manager wants someone “charismatic”, that’s an ambiguous factor that can be interpreted in many different ways, so people involved in finding that person will tend towards stereotypes (in this case, a man). Reducing ambiguity in language can go a long way to reducing bias in recruitment and assessment.
So, aside from reducing ambiguity in language, what does work and is backed up by data? Here are their condensed results:
Women on a shortlist
This seems to work, but only if you have more than one woman (if you have one woman out of four plus candidates, the woman’s chance effectively falls to 0%). If you’re going to try to hire more women by ensuring you have women on your shortlist, you need to make sure it isn’t just a single token effort.
Standardising the assessment process
People tend to be more confident in hiring decisions based on an interview process that had a test combined with an unstructured interview, as opposed to a test alone. However assessment of hires three months later has demonstrated that performance overall is lower in hires based on a process that included a structured test and an unstructured interview, when compared with a structured test alone.
You need to turn the unstructured interview into a structured one:
An interesting result is that roles where the salary range is advertised tend to attract more women. Perhaps even more interesting is that more women negotiate a starting salary if permission for negotiation is given in the job advert (e.g. “salary negotiable”). Whilst this may not fit into your recruitment strategy - giving permission to negotiate may seem like a bad strategy - it’s important to recognise that men tend to be more willing to negotiate regardless, and some will succeed.
Appointing diversity managers or task forces tends to reduce the impact of bias and lower the gender pay gap. These individuals have the right to review and question actions such as hiring decisions, but not necessarily block them. The theory is that by introducing an element of social accountability, decisions are held to a higher standard.
Shared parental leave
Encouraging the uptake of shared parental leave can go a long way too - but how do you do it? It’s all about the fathers - and there are three key themes to getting it right:
The key word here is actively - don’t just hide it all in a handbook, make sure expectant fathers receive the information.
What doesn’t work?
They also spent time reviewing common approaches that either have been shown to have a negative effect, or on which there have been no meaningful reviews and as such the jury is out.
Here are some of their findings:
It’s a difficult area - some of the activities that have been implemented by organisations, in good faith, aren’t backed up by the behavioural evidence and maybe doing more harm than good. Hopefully, as we get hold of more data, we can start to make meaningful strides to closing the gap.