How we’ve overcome gender bias in our graduate recruitment

For International Women's Day, Louise French addresses the topic of gender bias in the technology sector

Just 19% of tech employees in the UK are women. At makepositive, we’re doing pretty well, globally 32% of our technical employees are women, but we want to do better. One of the key ways that we aim to achieve this is through our graduate programme: by bringing more entry level women into the Salesforce ecosystem  we can hire and train the consultants, architects and technology leaders of tomorrow. 

When recruiting for graduates the easy answer is to say ‘let’s hire 50% women’, but becoming more diverse as a company doesn’t mean changing our requirements to let more women in regardless of ability. We need to be confident that every candidate that we choose is hired because they are the best for the role, not just because they tick a diversity box. 

To achieve this we first focused on increasing the number of women applying. The average pool of candidates will contain more men than women. One of the primary reasons for this is that in general women will not apply to a job advert until they meet 100% of the criteria, whilst men will apply when they meet just 60%. To appeal to female candidates and maximise the women in this pool we restructured our graduate job adverts to focus on the responsibilities of the job rather than a set list of requirements or experience. We also wanted to be sure that the company’s environment is appealing to women, and that they can visualise themselves at makepositive. We do this by showcasing the amazing women we have through our blog and social media forums.

Once we’ve established our pool of candidates we need to be sure that our recruitment process is fair. The typical grad recruitment process is optimised for men and male gender qualities which means that the average man will perform better than the average woman. We want to be sure that both genders have the opportunity to perform well and so focus on the following areas.

All female candidates are exposed to female senior consultants in both their phone interview and assessment centre. This is really important to ensure that female candidates are not only able to visualise themselves in the working environment but are also able to meet and ask questions of female technical employees to see how their career may progress at makepositive.

Finally, we made some changes to our assessment centre. Rather than splitting the female candidates evenly across groups, we make sure that no woman is in a group activity by herself. This is because in a group situation where women are significantly outnumbered by men they typically have to work extra hard to get their point across, giving them an extra challenge in an assessment centre that the men don’t have.  

We’re really pleased with the results of our changes. The first year we implemented them we increased the number of female grads that we hired from 0% to 40% of the intake, which is fantastic! For any other companies wanting to make their hiring processes female-centric, I recommend reading this report from the National HE STEM program and using it to drive your recruitment processes. 



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