How to avoid gender bias with hiring technology

Make a game about time travel and talking lizards, nobody objects. Make a game about the gender gap, “This is unrealistic!” — Mauro Vanetti

Screenshot "two interviewees" - gender bias


The amount of hate Mauro Vanetti received for his two-minute game was insane. Mauro made “Two Interviewees” as a tiny gaming experiment with the anti-sexist theme. And the Internet exploded with haters calling him from sexist to ISIS.

“I must have struck a chord,” Mauro tweeted. Gender gap in employment has been that giant elephant in the room. Since the research into orchestras’ “blind” audition process revealing unconscious gender bias in the 1970s ’till this very moment, the problem still exists. It’s a touchy, tricky one.

In Mauro’s game, you play as two characters: Martin and Irene. Both have the same professional background, and are going to have an interview for the same company with the same “HR Recruiter” — Mr. White. They got the same questions and give the same answers. The only difference here is the shocking biased mind of the interviewer.

No matter which answers you choose, Irene won’t get hired. Many players were pissed off and wondered if they did it “right.” In two minutes, they feel the frustration that many women have to face their entire lives.

Mauro may exaggerate “Two Interviewees” to make a point, but it’s not far from the truth. At no certain stage of the hiring process would somebody say “Let’s disqualify women.” For the most part, we make decisions based on our experience, impression, hunch, and unconscious bias — the gestalt formed from the societies we live in, that sadly are in favor of the male population at large.

Our stance here is not about hiring women because of their gender. It’s about not passing on talented women just because of existing bias and implicit stereotypes.

Studies show that we form an unconscious bias against women when: 1) the number of women in an applicant pool is small, 2) evaluators are under time pressure, fatigued, or need a quick decision, and 3) when performance criteria are ambiguous.

The good news is that we can prevent all three nowadays by establishing a good process, with the help of technology.

Additional reading: Tackling gender inequality in the workplace

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