Is gender inequality towards women still a problem for businesses?

Peninsula Team

June 25 2013

Despite there being a widely accepted strong business and economic case for gender parity, inequality towards women still exists within businesses, particularly at the more senior levels.  If a company finds that the genders are disproportionately represented at different levels then it needs to look at its recruitment and promotion processes to make sure that any barriers to recruiting and developing women are removed.

Unconscious bias within the recruitment process, whether at the initial stages or when considering possible promotion, is one of the biggest barriers to gender equality within the workplace.  This covers assumptions and attitudes that shape all of an individual’s behaviours, often without being realised, including stereotyping the characteristics, roles and abilities of women and men.

An additional issue can be unconscious mirror-imaging in the recruitment or promotion process.  This is a recognised issue in recruitment where an interviewer or superiors are more likely to choose candidates for a vacancy who have similar skill sets or display similar behaviours to themselves.  Carefully thought out person specifications and an interview panel with clear scoring criteria can help to offset the issues of unconscious bias for every role.  Training in recognising and preventing unconscious bias can have a significant positive impact on recruiting women into the workplace.

However, before the shortlisting and interview stages it is important to get women to apply.  Companies need to look at their recruitment to see if there is any indication that women are being put off from applying.  If this is happening then it may be necessary to look at the wording in job adverts to see if it will discourage women as women appear to be more affected by gender-themed wording than men.

Research shows that job descriptions using masculine-themed words such as active, ambitious, analytical, competitive, dominate, challenging, confident, decisive, determined, independent, leader, objective, etc., tend to result in the roles being dominated by men.  Although everyone is different, in general women are ruling themselves out of contention in the belief that they would not fit in and so would not submit an application.  When the job descriptions were reworded using feminine-themed words such as committed, connected, cooperative, dependable, interpersonal, loyal, responsible, supportive, trust, etc. women were more inclined to apply.

By taking a few steps to make recruitment and promotion more inclusive companies have a better chance of attaining a balanced workforce at all levels, which is good for business.

By Ellen Singer For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

Suggested Resources