Article creator image

BY Fairygodboss

How to Increase Diversity and Promote More Women

Candidate pool

Photo credit: Creative Commons

TAGS:Diversity, Gender equality, Unconscious bias, Women in the workplace, Career goals

The key to promoting more women to senior management? Groom, and present at least two female candidates when it comes to putting forward a slate of candidates.

The latest research shows that when only one woman is put forth as a candidate among gender-mixed slate for an open job, she has a zero statistical probability of being hired. The culprit in this case isn’t simply gender bias. Rather, it’s also our innate bias towards maintaining the status quo (which is often in practice difficult to separate from unconscious gender bias since much of unconscious gender bias reflects social status quos).

Professors from the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business recently reported on a series of studies which placed female and male candidates in front of panels of hiring decision-makers. In their studies, they conducted experiments whereby they changed the ratio of male and female candidates in their applicant pools. What they found is that when at least two minorities or women appeared in a candidate pool of finalists (of a total slate size of 4 candidates), a woman or minority was more likely to be chosen as the final candidate. This might sound like a simple statistical truism. After all, the more women there are in a pool, the more likely a woman is to be hired, right? Well, no. The researchers found that “Each added women in a pool does not increase the probability of hiring a woman — the difference between having one and two women seems to be what matters.” They found similar results for race.

The authors of the study concluded that the reason why having one woman isn’t sufficient to change the status quo is that by being isolated, the woman is by definition a clear deviation from the norm, which can be seen as “risky” for decision-makers.

If this is true, the implication is that the well-known “Rooney” rule doesn’t go far enough. The Rooney Rule is the National Football League’s policy to put forth one minority candidate for consideration into an open leadership role. It was also recently extended to women in it’s executive ranks. It is named for Pittsburgh Steelers’ chairman Dan Rooney, who pushed the league to require that at least one minority candidate was put forward for consideration every time there was an opening for a general manager in the NFL. (Though it is often confused with affirmative action, there is nothing about the rule that gives that minority candidate any preference for selection.

There are certainly many reasons to include more women candidates when considering an important hire. Research shows that diversity is good for business, and diverse points of view are important for critical business outcomes. However, this new research shows there is no need for tokenism (which can be damaging and ineffective) if we simply want to see more women and minorities in leadership. Simply putting more than one woman or minority forward for consideration doesn’t — and shouldn’t — ensure they will be hired, but it certainly does help counteract our unconscious biases to preserve the status quo.


Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!


You May Also Like

Related Community Discussions

  • I'm at a relatively senior level in my career, and I'm getting married. I'd like to change my name...but I'm concerned about how it could affect my "brand." First of all, people inside my company and out already know me by my maiden name...But also, will it affect my career prospects and make it seem like I am too focused on marriage?

  • I recently came back to work after my maternity leave. It's a busy job, and I've been squeezing in pumping breaks in between meetings. Yesterday, my coworker actually asked to come into the pumping room to discuss a project since she couldn't find time on my calendar. How do I explain that this is NOT OK?!

  • All women should read the amazing negotiation advice in the book, "Women in Tech: Take your Career to the Next Level" by Tarah Wheeler. I applied the advice in a recent negotiation round and got a 15% bump in salary!

    Anybody have good advice for how to request a raise that's worked?

    Great article here:

  • My company does not offer fertility benefits, and I'm trying to make the case to management that they should - in order to be competitive. (I'm not in HR.) Has anyone had any experience with this? Any best practices to share?

  • I was on maternity leave when Grace Hopper Conference tickets became available unfortunately. I promised my team (two other women) that we would go but am having trouble finding an "in." Does anyone know of anyone who has extra tickets? If not, do you know any other routes I could go to get some?

Find Out

What are women saying about your company?

Click Here

Share This

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share with Friends
  • Share Anonymously