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Addressing Biases In Hiring For Gender Equity

"Gender stereotypes can impact perceptions of certain roles and contribute to the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. There is a need to encourage the entire hiring ecosystem to support the hiring of women," says Raman Kumar Singh, CHRO, ABB India

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In your opinion, what notable trends have you observed in the technology industry regarding gender equality and diversity?

Technology companies are using multiple strategies to drive gender equity and diversity at the workplace. It is also heartening to see that many such efforts are now moving beyond mere tokenism as we see real change on the ground. Some of the trends that I have observed include focused hiring of women across the organisation, creating or enabling policies that enables women to balance their work and life, removing/addressing pay equity issues, and supporting women through relevant training programmes, personalised coaching and/or mentors and ERGs. 

To hire more women in the shopfloor, companies are redesigning them in a way that reduces the need for heavy labour, making use of digital technologies and automation wherever possible. Companies are also addressing conscious/unconscious bias - removing bias from promotion/career growth decisions and pushing for higher women representation at the leadership level.

What challenges do companies commonly face when trying to achieve gender equity, and how do you suggest navigating through them?

Achieving gender equity in the workplace is a complex and ongoing process, and companies often face various challenges in their efforts. Some common challenges include unconscious and conscious biases, which can influence decision-making processes, from hiring and promotions to project assignments. Identifying and mitigating these biases is crucial for creating a more equitable workplace. Gender stereotypes and societal prejudices can impact perceptions of certain roles and contribute to the underrepresentation of women in specific fields or leadership positions. A lack of representation of women in leadership positions can make it difficult for female employees to envision a path to career advancement within the organisation.

There is a need to encourage hiring managers and the entire hiring ecosystem to support the hiring of women. This may mean addressing the conscious/unconscious bias that may exist about what roles are fit for a woman. We still have a situation in India, where fewer women pass out of college as compared to men. This may mean that the search for the right women candidate may take a bit longer and a little more effort, as compared to men. In such cases, we need to have the patience to wait for the right candidate. 

When we hire women in an organisation, it is essential to foster a culture that values diversity and creates an environment where all employees feel welcome and respected. It is also important to have sufficient support systems, such as mentorship programmes, networking opportunities and resources for professional development, which are essential for women to thrive in their careers. Companies need to implement comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategies, foster a culture of openness and learning and regularly assess and adjust their initiatives to make meaningful progress toward gender equity. Addressing and rectifying the gender pay gap is another challenge for companies striving for equity.

How can organisations revise their policies and procedures to ensure equal pay for equal work and create a supportive environment for women to succeed at all levels?

Organisations are moving to more objective metrics when hiring candidates. The compensation at the time of hiring is driven by the role and not the candidate. This would ensure that we are hiring women at similar pay levels. It is also important to observe the performance metrics and the corresponding increments that are offered to employees annually. Organisations need to review the data and remove any systemic gender bias in assessing and remunerating employee performance. We must also be extra vigilant to ensure that opting for flexible working arrangements or taking time off for caregiving does not reflect in poor rating/increment. Organisations need to ensure that time taken off for maternity/pregnancy does not lead to compensation disparity, in what is sometimes referred to as “motherhood penalty.” 

Then there is an issue around career growth opportunities for women. Women tend not to raise their hands for higher-order roles unless they are 100 per cent sure of fitting the role requirement or they may feel that they might be overlooked (while men may apply for roles even if they are 70 per cent ready). Organisations also need to look out for bias against promoting women to higher-order roles when they are considering motherhood or need to take care of their young children or family members, as it might be seen as affecting their performance. These biases, if not checked can also result in pay equity issues. 

Considering the rapidly evolving nature of technology, what role do upskilling initiatives, particularly those focused on women in tech, play in ensuring workforce readiness and diversity in the industry?

Technology is advancing rapidly, leading to a growing gap between the skills employees have and the skills demanded by the industry. Upskilling initiatives help close this gap by providing employees, including women in tech, with the latest skills and knowledge needed for current and emerging technologies. It helps to ensure that more such roles are gender agnostic. Upskilling programmes empower women in tech by enhancing their expertise in relevant areas. Someone, let us say, who joined an organisation as a trainee with a specific skill set must have avenues to keep up-skilling for wider career prospects within or outside of the organisation. 

On the other hand, collaboration between companies, educational institutions and non-profit organisations in designing and delivering upskilling initiatives can strengthen the impact. Such partnerships can ensure that these programmes are comprehensive, accessible, and aligned with industry needs which helps in building a more inclusive, skilled, and future-ready tech workforce.

What are some concrete actions organisations can take to address barriers that women face in job advancement and create a more inclusive workplace?

Creating a more inclusive workplace and addressing barriers to women's job advancement requires a multi-faceted approach. If you were to look at the manufacturing industry, shopfloors primarily were dominated by men, as many such jobs, decades ago, required heavy weightlifting. The nature of jobs within these shopfloors has changed drastically, thanks to the adoption of newer technologies, requiring a different skill set. Companies are even coming up with dedicated women-only manufacturing lines. 

Women who have taken up leadership roles are becoming the role models for younger women. Companies can offer leadership development programmes that specifically target women, implement training programmes to raise awareness of unconscious biases and promote inclusivity. Flexible work policies that accommodate diverse needs, such as remote work options, flexible hours, and part-time arrangements can help women balance their professional and personal responsibilities. On the other hand, robust parental leave policies that support both mothers and fathers help create an environment that normalises and encourages the use of parental leave, reducing the stigma associated with caregiving responsibilities. The formation of women's networks, ERGs, within the organisation helps provide opportunities for women to connect, share experiences and support each other in their professional development as well.

By taking these concrete actions, organisations can work towards dismantling barriers to women's job advancement and creating a workplace that is truly inclusive and supportive of diversity. Continuous commitment, monitoring progress and adjusting strategies as needed are critical for long-term success.



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