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The solution to the tech industry’s gender bias might be simpler than you think

An experiment by a tech industry recruiter indicates that a strong gender bias still exists among employers—but some employers are already exploring an elegant workaround.

The solution to the tech industry’s gender bias might be simpler than you think

The tech industry has a well-documented gender diversity problem. Only 37% of the field’s entry level workers are female, a recent McKinsey study determined, and the disparity only grows as you climb up the ladder. But as an experiment conducted by tech recruiter Speak with a Geek suggests, the solution could be an idea that’s as new as it is simple: blind hiring.

First, the recruiter presented a group of employers with 5,000 candidates for hiring consideration. In the first scenario, all the candidates had identifying information attached to their application, including names and other background information that would reveal their gender. The employers then selected which candidates they wanted to interview. The kicker? Only 5% selected were women.

Then, on a second occasion, using the same 5,000 candidates, Speak With a Geek removed any identifying information and submitted them to the same group of employers. This time, 54% of the candidates selected for interviews were women. The large disparity indicates that despite efforts to diversify tech, gender bias still presents a strong and pervasive influence.

Some big-name employers are already on board with blind hiring: Mozilla, Dolby Labs and BBC among them. Others have experimented with it using third party apps. Software company GapJumpers, for instance, helps its clients devise a series of tests or project deliverables that the client’s applicants must complete.

After reviewing only the applicants’ test scores and work, employers select which candidates they wish to interview. Only then do the employers see any names or resumes. One major takeaway? The company found that using blind applications resulted in a higher percentage of women selected for interviews.

But even if your target company hasn’t jumped on the blind applications train, you can still take steps yourself to keep your identity out of the equation—at least in the early stages. For instance, female job seekers have the option to abbreviate their first name using only initials or decline to identify when directly asked their gender on applications.

Of course, blind hiring is only one possible solution to a complex and deep-rooted problem. Some companies have embraced different approaches in an attempt to diversify their workforce. Etsy, for instance, recently dropped the common tech interview practice of having applicants write code on a whiteboard in front of an interview panel. Instead, they had applicants work on actual programming tasks for the company. This activity better reflected the company environment and also led to more female engineers being hired. 

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