Is blind hiring the solution to tech’s diversity problem?

Source: Flickr

Researchers have found a great way to multiply female interviewees for tech roles tenfold in one fell swoop: just keep their gender a secret. (Sadly, this is not a joke.)

Tech recruiter Speak With A Geek did an experiment with blind hiring, and got some striking results.

Blind job auditions mean any identifying details – such as the candidate’s gender – are stripped away, leaving employers to make their decision on qualifications alone, rather than a snap judgment based on implicit bias.

SWAG put forward 5,000 candidates to employers, in two different ways. The traditional applications, with names, backgrounds and genders included led to recruiters selecting just five per cent female interviewees.

What about the blind audition? You’ve probably guessed it.

When SWAG resubmitted the applications without any identifying details, the percentage of women selected jumped by a factor of ten.

With this method, over half, or 54%, of interviewees for tech roles were women.

SWAG isn’t the only organisation putting forward blind hiring as a way of increasing the stubborn lack of diversity in tech. Recruiters Gapjumpers actively help companies work with blind hiring, removing names and backgrounds from applications, and say:

While many believe the lack of women in technology companies is due to low application numbers, we find that women are taking blind auditions at a rate comparable to their representation in the US general population.

This bias is not a new phenomenon. Several past studies have shown both ethnic and gender bias, as recruiters routinely pass up job applications from qualified women, or applicants with foreign-sounding names.

Both anonymised applications and blind hiring have really become buzzwords in the last couple of years, with more and more tech companies turning to it in an attempt to get better at hiring by ability, rather than background.

And the figures show they need some help. SWAG, who keep a detailed tally of gender and ethnic diversity within US tech roles at major tech companies, say:

Diversity promotes innovative thinking, creative problem solving, and allows your company to remain competitive.

It seems tech firms struggling to improve diversity could benefit from this simple hiring trick. As SWAG suggests on their website: “Your user base is diverse, shouldn’t your tech team be?”

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