Knowledge Center

Break the Cycle—HR Experts: Eliminating Gender Bias From the Recruitment Process

Catalyst research shows that gender bias can seep into talent management systems, affecting every employee at every level in a vicious cycle. HR teams serve as the intermediaries between senior leadership teams and employees, translating senior leaders’ strategies, policies, and objectives into performance management goals. HR Experts: learn more about how to revamp your current methods by downloading this Supporter-only tool.

As you use this tool, also consider taking the following five actions:

  1. Require Diverse Slates: Ensure that candidate slates for all open positions include two or more qualified women as well as two people from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. Research shows that requiring only one candidate of any underrepresented group is the same as having none because they are seen as different, and decision-makers are often reluctant to break from the status quo.
  2. Evaluate Everyone Consistently: Use transparent, standardized, and objective criteria for hiring, evaluation, and promotion decisions to minimize the negative effects of unconscious biases on talent development. Research shows that men are often promoted on potential while women are promoted on proven performance. Don’t let your organization perpetuate this norm.
  3. Guarantee Equal Access to “Hot Jobs”: Identify high-profile on-the-job opportunities in your organization, such as large and highly visible projects, P&L responsibility, and international assignments. Then, track the proportion of women and employees from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups who gain access to these opportunities. Add processes to ensure that people of every gender, race, and ethnicity have equal access to these “hot jobs,” not just the usual suspects. Ensure that senior leaders don’t only look for talent in their informal networks, which historically benefits men more than anyone else.
  4. Assess Compensation Annually: Make sure all women and men across racial and ethnic groups entering the company are paid equally for equal work, and that a pay gap does not emerge over time as employees advance. Make this information publicly available to keep yourself and your organization accountable.
  5. Revamp Recruitment Processes. Identify stereotypically masculine terms in your job descriptions and rewrite them to focus on objective job requirements. Check for bias embedded in your processes for screening résumés, interviewing applicants, and extending offers. 

How to cite this product: Catalyst, Break the Cycle—HR Experts: Eliminating Gender Bias From the Recruitment Process (Catalyst, 2018).