Are Poor Project Management and Recruiting Practices Contributing to Gender Discrimination?

Are poor project management and recruiting practices contributing to gender discrimination at high-tech firms? Ellen Messmer, of Network World, thinks so. In her post Gender Discrimination Linked to Poor Project Management, she states that 'tech firms rely excessively on a 'hero mindset' to save runaway coding projects that are poorly organized, and employees with family responsibilities -- often women -- are sacrificed as a result."

Her conclusions are based on a new study by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. The study, "The Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Technical Women: Breaking Barriers to Cultural Change in Corporations" alleges that there is also bias against women in recruitment and job assignment in high-tech corporate cultures that thrive on this 'hero mindset'.

Ms. Messmer states that "this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants workaday world represents a pattern that's grown mainly because an organization 'poorly defines requirements and project management'." Ms. Messmer paraphrases a portion of the Borg report, stating:

"Silicon Valley's sometimes frantic fire-fighting pace and in-your-face communications style produce many technical cultures that 'leave women feeling isolated and crushed', according to the report."
The Anita Borg Institute is proposing some recommendations aimed at eliminating gender bias at high-tech firms. One of these recommendations is based on the finding that women are eliminated in the hiring process at the resume-reviewing level. The Institute proposes that companies might consider interviewing all women candidates.

While it may be the case that gender discrimination exists in recruiting, hiring, and job assignment, interviewing all female candidates is not the solution. I think that this is a very inefficient solution that would most likely have little effect on reducing any gender bias in hiring.

A better solution is to have clearly defined job descriptions with well-articulated qualifications. Each candidate should be objectively assessed against those qualifications.  In order to assist with this objective assessment, an organization may want to remove any information that would identify a candidate's "protected class status" and create a redacted 'candidate profile'. The 'candidate profile' would provide all information about education, qualifications, previous experience, and other pertinent information used by the organization in evaluating a candidate. This 'candidate profile' would then be passed along to hiring managers and decision makers. It should be noted that this is also an effective strategy for organizations that rely heavily on recruiting from social media; social media profiles tend to provide protected class information which should not be considered in the hiring process.

If a candidate is rejected at the 'candidate profile' screening phase, the reasons for this decision should be documented. Documentation of the objective rejection reasons, such as failure to meet minimum education or certification requirements,  is perhaps one of the most important things an organization can do. Not only does it create a permanent record of the rejection reason, it forces the hiring manager or decision maker to clearly articulate the reason(s) for which the candidate is rejected.

The creation of a 'candidate profile' will not guarantee a bias-free hiring process. There is still the opportunity for hiring managers and decision makers to introduce bias at the interview stage, either consciously or subconsciously. It is, however, a step in the right direction.

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