Saturday, July 1, 2017

Gender discrimination in Australian Public Service hiring?

The Australian Public Service is a branch of the Australian government that provides services to almost every part of Australian life. 

In 2016, women comprised 59.0% of the APS as a whole, but accounted for only 42.9% of its Senior Executive Service officers. Is this clearly a case of gender bias (deliberate or unconscious) in hiring?

A governmental study sought to find out, by testing with applications and CVs that had no identification of the gender or any other characteristic of the applicant.

The results were surprising. There was indeed bias when applicants were identifiable. But in the other direction. As in, women were more likely to be shortlisted (ie. accepted for the next step in the hiring process) than men. Not by a lot, but measurably so (2.9% more, according to the study). Even moreover, and perhaps more surprisingly, male reviewers were more likely to shortlist female applicants than female reviewers.

Of course this meant that when the reviewers did not know the gender or any other personal characteristics of the applicants, ie. when this information was omitted from the CVs, and thus the reviewers could not show any favoritism or bias, women actually became less likely to be shortlisted and more likely to be rejected.

This, of course, means that the feminist theory that women being a minority in managerial positions as being caused by misogynist bias, is at least in this case completely false. On the contrary, there is already bias in favor of women, rather than against them. Yet they still form a minority in the top positions.

I find the conclusion of the study interesting:
"Overall, the results indicate the need for caution when moving towards ’blind’ recruitment processes in the Australian Public Service, as de-identification may frustrate efforts aimed at promoting diversity"
I don't think there could be a more direct way of saying that "we need to deliberately favor women in hiring over men, if we want to promote diversity".

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