PowerToFly's cofounder and president, Katharine Zaleski, recently explored the lengths employers go to in order to hide the gender of candidates to diversify their workforce in her New York Times article "Job Interviews Without Gender".
While one head of talent at a top finance company divulged getting pitched for gender-masking software up to five times a week, does the data actually prove these efforts effective? Does gender-masking actually work?
No, not really.
"This is a misguided distraction from the hard work of evaluating and fixing the ways in which their cultures drive out the women who are actually hired...masking is, at best, a partial solution. While it might allow more women to get through interview rounds, there is little evidence that it would get more women hired. In fact, the low-tech version of masking — removing names from résumés — has been tried, without much documented success."
Why does it fail? To begin with, the pool of female applicants within tech remain quite small. And even if a woman does apply, hiring managers may automatically discount candidates with gaps on their resume - for example, a woman taking time off to care for a young child or an infirm relative. Removing a candidate's name from a resume will only go so far at masking her identity, if she even applies at all.
"A Stanford doctoral student, Sharon Jank, studied the gender-masking platform GapJumpers and came up with similar findings. Removing gender identifiers helped women through the first screening, but at traditional interviews, the positive effects were undone by hiring managers' biases."
The answer to the diversity problem, Zaleski clarifies, lies in a company's culture.
"The biggest problem with gender is that it allows companies to ignore the challenges of making their environments more inclusive. And it sends a confusing message to candidates — after all, if an employer needs to use masking because hiring managers can't be trusted to be open to diversity, why would women believe they'll belong and be treated fairly even if they are ultimately hired?
Gender-masking tools do nothing to address the culture of a company. One of the central reasons the number of women at tech companies remains so pitifully low is that these companies are not creating environments where women feel they can thrive...
...Yes, half the battle is getting more women in the room, but the other half is assuring women they won't have to hide who they are when they show up."
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