Hiring Assessment Tests May Unintentionally Eliminate Women


problem solving


Miriam Grobman
Miriam Grobman
April 19, 2024 at 5:15PM UTC
Unconscious Bias Training is quite in fashion these days, especially with the big tech companies that have been criticized for their lack of gender diversity. While those trainings are interesting and engaging and may raise awareness about various biases, there's little evidence to their effectiveness. This is well explained in Diversity and Inclusion specialist's, Lisa Kepinski's article, titled: Unconscious Bias Awareness Training is Hot, But the Outcome is Not: So What to Do About It
Lisa outlines two problems with these trainings:
1. The "So What?" effect: having done the training, leaders and HR professionals alike remain at loss for the next steps that could deliver a sustainable cultural change, and 
2. The training may backfire by encouraging more biased thinking and behaviors (by conditioning the stereotypes). Moreover, "by hearing that others are biased and it’s ‘natural’ to hold stereotypes, we feel less motivated to change biases and stereotypes are strengthened (‘follow the herd’ bias)."
If you really want your company to address bias, you should remove the biases by redesigning processes; instead of fixing the people, fix the environment and the processes in which they are inserted. Lisa calls this methodology "Inclusion Nudges."
A Case In Point
At a top consulting firm, the pre-interview phase required a shortened version of the GMAT math test. Women candidates, on average, scored lower on this test and were therefore eliminated before even getting interviewed, resulting in hiring many more men than women.
A typical company's approach: we focus on meritocracy, the test selected the best candidates and there's no problem with that.
This company's approach: let's select 10% of top male candidates and 10% of top female candidates to interview from the test pool.
Outcome: female candidates performed better in later group dynamic exercises and passed the interview phase with flying colors. Their overall share among new hires increased with this simple rule change.
Some Food For Thought
If your company or team uses single-criteria timed tests to filter out potential candidates, take the time to get together and discuss what kind of candidates it will be eliminating. Most importantly, evaluate if your test is a predictor of success in a complex work environment, where the ability to learn quickly and build good relationships with colleagues and clients matters. 
And if you’re not the best test taker but know you’re the right candidate for the job, one of the ways to overcome this gap is to try and get informal interviews with people in the firm. This way you can show them you other sides of you and your abilities. 
And.. are women worse than men in math? Watch this video to find out more about what research says.
Miriam Grobman Consulting works with organizations that want to advance more talented women into leadership roles by breaking cultural barriers and giving them the right skills to be successful.  In May they will be launching an innovative online mini-MBA course “Master Influencer Boot Camp for Women” to help women leaders gain power and achieve better results at the workplace.  You can find out more info here. You can also follow their Facebook page, Leadership and Women, for inspiring stories about women leaders and practical career advice and sign up for their newsletter.


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