Gender inequality is a systemic and deeply rooted issue in the workforce.
According to Payscale’s 2022 Report, women make 82 to 99 cents for every $1 earned by men.
We’re miles off experiencing true gender equality in the workplace, which means we’ve got a long way to go before equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal promotion opportunities are achieved.
And traditional hiring processes are doing very little to help combat this disparity.
In recent years, we’ve experienced many global players — including Apple, Hilton, Google, and more — shift to skills-based hiring practices to guarantee the best candidate for the role, free of bias and assumed suitability. This new form of hiring assesses competencies, skills, and talent over background, experience, and formal qualifications.
Could skills testing be a viable solution to help improve workplace equality? In this article, we’ll depict how gender diversity currently looks in the workplace, delve into how the traditional hiring process is riddled with bias, and uncover how a skills-based approach can help combat the gender gap.
A snapshot of gender inequality in the workplace
There’s an untapped resource in the workforce, and globally, organizations don’t realize its true potential. Yep, we’re talking about women.
It may surprise you to know that out of the 7.8 billion people worldwide, women are the majority.
Despite the gender gap closing at an astonishingly slow rate, women’s contributions to society and work call for a faster rate of progress. Consider the following statistics:
- In 2019, women made up the majority of college-educated workers at 50.2%, according to Pew Research Center.
- In 2019, women earned roughly 57% of bachelor’s degrees.
Yet, the disparities we continue to witness in the workplace illustrate a concerning reality for women:
- According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, 31.4% of the gender gap remains to be closed globally.
- New research shows that women’s involvement in the labor force is estimated to peak in 2025, making up 47.1% of the entire workforce, according to Pew Research Center. By 2060, it’s predicted that women’s contribution will drop to 46.3%. These frightening statistics suggest that women may never make up half of the workforce.
- In 2020, a male with a bachelor’s degree earned on average $71,666. Compared to a woman with the same qualification, who made, on average, $51,154, according to the United States Census Bureau.
- In 2021, women made up just 26% of all senators, 27.3% of house representatives, and 18% of governors in the US. While changing with time, women are still a minority across senior roles in government.
- In 2020, women made up 37 of the Fortune 500 CEOs. However, this accounts for only 7.4% of all Fortune 500 CEOs.
How is the recruitment process contributing to gender inequality?
There are many reasons contributing to the ongoing impact of the gender gap.
Yet, there is one obvious obstacle perpetuating inequality in the workforce: the traditional recruitment process — more notably, the conscious and unconscious biases riddled within the hiring funnel.
Every day, recruiters eliminate job seekers from the hiring process because of their gender — a factor that often has very little influence on their ability to perform the role successfully.
In the hiring process, unconscious bias refers to the opinions formed about a candidate based on belief systems and social stereotypes, rather than solely looking at their skill and suitability for the role.
For example, a hiring manager may have had a negative experience in the past with female workers, influencing the way they view all female applicants. Similarly, stereotypes may come into play when a recruitment manager perceives men as more analytical and logical than female candidates, despite having the same experience and skills.
The following statistics provide greater insight into gender bias in the recruitment process:
- According to a UN report, almost 90% of men and women hold some bias against women.
- In a 2020 Wiley study, 65% of the 3,000 hiring managers interviewed admitted their hiring decisions are based on instinct rather than data.
- The same Wiley study reported that 93% of respondents believe the hiring and selection process is influenced by unconscious bias — especially during the interview phase (62%) and resume screening phase (51%).
- Throughout history, we’ve seen favoritism towards men for corporate positions. According to a PNAS study, when provided with a list of equal candidates, men were 1.5 times more likely to be selected over women for the role.
- An Insync and Hays collaborative study of 1,000 respondents found larger companies were more likely to interview the male candidate, despite admitting the female candidate’s skills matched the role more appropriately.
- A study published in Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences found that recruitment managers would choose male candidates over female candidates two out of three times, even if they were aware they were hiring the less skilled option.
There are various stereotypes and biases at play when comparing women to men in the workforce, most of which are systemic belief systems. According to Payscale’s 2022 State of the Gender Gap report, bias impacts women in the workplace in the following ways:
- Gender stereotypes influence career opportunities: According to Payscale, women are still expected to play key roles in more ‘nurturing’ sectors, such as non-profits (65%), education (69%), and healthcare (76%). Meanwhile, men are considered more suitable for problem-solving positions and wealth management.
- Social expectations impact career progression: Women are still considered caretakers, which often impacts their long-term career progression (i.e., their ability to progress into senior roles).
- Biases limit opportunity: Due to unconscious biases and gender stereotypes, women are often funneled into lower-paying careers, with most senior hires still consisting of men, according to Payscale’s findings.
Unfortunately, gender discrimination and bias isn’t just present in the selection process. It’s evident throughout a woman’s entire career, according to Pew Research Center.
The way forward
The lack of true gender diversity in the workplace is an ongoing issue in organizations across the world. With traditional recruitment practices merely amplifying the issue, it’s caused progressive employers to look for alternative methods that benefit both the employer and prospective employee.
That’s where skills-based hiring comes in.
What is skills-based hiring?
Simply put, skills-based recruitment practices aim to hire employees based purely on skills, capabilities, and suitability to the role, as opposed to their educational background, experience, and assumed suitability.
A skills-based approach looks at a candidate’s soft and hard skills and seeks to find the candidate whose skills best align with the responsibilities and duties of the position.
[Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Skills Testing]
How can skills-based testing help combat the gender gap in the workplace?
Conscious and unconscious gender biases are contributing factors to women’s lack of presence, responsibility, and opportunities in the workplace. Yet, a skills-based recruitment approach helps to significantly reduce this.
Skills-based testing and assessments can help support gender equality in the following ways…
1. AI automation removes human bias
A quality skills-based assessment uses AI grading to review job seekers’ responses, which removes human bias from the equation. While good and bad answers are pre-determined by a human, good AI automation reduces the gender biases that influence decisions throughout the hiring process, most of which aren’t in favor of women applicants.
This process helps to remove affinity bias (i.e., favoring candidates similar to you), confirmation bias (i.e., forming an opinion of a candidate before the interview), contrast effect (i.e., comparing two candidates and emphasizing the positive attributes of one), and gender bias (i.e., favoring one gender over another).
2. Candidates are assessed based on relevant factors
It’s important to note that not all AI is created equal, meaning the quality will vary drastically from one product to another. Vervoe’s AI-powered skills-based testing stands out with its ability to rank applicants based on how their soft and hard skills correlate with the requirements and responsibilities of the role. This process removes any unnecessary bias from the recruitment process, whether it be gender, education, experience, age, etc. Assessing one’s skills leaves less room to inject stereotypes or biases into the process.
3. There are more opportunities for candidates to showcase their abilities
Historically, the interview process isn’t in favor of women. Various studies demonstrate that recruiters are more likely to progress male applicants to the interview phase, even when a female candidate shows the same, if not more, suitability for the role.
Skills-based hiring gives all candidates multiple opportunities to demonstrate their skills and suitability for the role. For example, Vervoe’s skills-based testing incorporates various relevant question types — i.e., multiple-choice, text-based, video, audio, spreadsheet, code challenges, simulations, and more — to assess soft and hard skills.
Unlike traditional recruitment processes, which determine candidates’ suitability by their resume, initial screening, and interview, skills-based testing allows job seekers to prove and validate their skill set.
While most employers and recruiters likely believe their hiring decisions are influenced by factual information, objectivity, and a candidate’s suitability for a role, workplace inequality proves this isn’t necessarily the case.
In actual fact, most organizations’ hiring processes are riddled with bias — based on personal experience, internal belief systems, and external influences. None of which predict a candidate’s job performance. This unfortunate reality perpetuates the ongoing impact of gender disparity in the workforce, and depicts a frightening future for equality.
While skills-based hiring alone won’t combat the gender gap, it offers a reliable solution to help improve areas of the recruitment process that act as barriers for certain genders.
Skills-based hiring presents a bias-free, fair, and accurate opportunity for organizations to help attract diverse talent and remove gender bias from all stages of the hiring process.