Women are more likely to be hired for senior positions than men when a skills-based approach rather than a CV-driven approach is taken during the hiring process, new research has found.
Currently, women account for just 31% of senior management positions. The research by de-biased recruitment consultants Applied found this increased to 52% – an increase of almost 70% – once a skills-based hiring approach was used.
Researchers tracked the gender split of 2,260 candidates who were hired into senior roles in 102 international companies between 2017 and 2021. The candidates were all hired using Applied’s de-biased process, a randomised method that anonymises candidates and asks them to answer specific skills-based questions, rather than sending in a traditional CV (on which the candidate’s gender is likely to be immediately obvious).
The second stage of Applied’s hiring process involves cognitive ability tests and structured interviews.
However, when the candidates were anonymised in this way, the researchers found women performed significantly better than men. In a world where men currently dominate senior level positions, occupying 69% of them, the research suggested that gender bias does come into play during the traditional hiring process, in a way that disadvantages women.
The research also found that female candidates had a particularly high success rate in the publishing industry, where they accounted for an overwhelming 81% of senior hires. Women also dominated in education, with 67% of top roles, and health, where they took 65% of the top roles. Analysis of NHS workforce statistics performed by NHS Digital in 2018 found that women held just 37% of the senior roles in health – so again, the Applied research suggests that gender works against women during the traditional hiring process.
Commenting on the research, which was released ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, Khyati Sundaram, de-biased recruitment expert and CEO of Applied, said: “We’ve seen progress towards increased representation of women across the workforce at large. But women are still scarce in senior roles. Not only is this doing a disservice to women with a wealth of talent and expertise to offer, but it’s actively holding companies back. Organisations with women in senior roles outperform companies run by men by almost 40%. Women’s absence from senior teams is also driving the gender pay gap, which sees women earn two-thirds less than men.
She added: “The solution is simple. In honour of International Women’s Day, we dug into the data to find out how skills-based hiring impacts the gender balance of senior hires. It didn’t surprise me to discover that when hiring is anonymised and women are tested for skills alone they come out on top, successfully landing over half of the senior roles we studied.
“Women have so much to offer and so much to gain from sitting on senior teams. We need women in these positions to act as role models and advocates for other women rising through the ranks. It’s time we empowered female leaders to seize the positions they deserve by making hiring fairer and more objective,” Sundaram concluded.