BETA Animation: Unconscious Bias

BETA Animation: Unconscious Bias

Domestic Policy Behavioural Economics
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Four icons referencing the job application process. The first icon, labeled Job Listing, has a micro glass looking at a piece of paper. The second icon has a cut of of a man with the text Reviewing of job applications. The third icon us a group of speech bubbles with the label Interviewing. The final icon has a cut out of a man with the text Merit listing.

How can we improve the diversity and gender balance of our workplaces? In 2016, women comprised 59.0% of the APS as a whole, but accounted for 48.9% of its executive level officers and only 42.9% of its Senior Executive Service officers.

Is unconscious bias occurring during the shortlisting process for job applications? BETA removed gender and ethnicity characteristics from job applications to see if this would change the selection outcomes at senior levels of the Australian Public Service (APS).

The results of our study found de-identification did not appear to promote diversity at the shortlisting phase of recruitment. The study found that females and minorities were more likely to be shortlisted when their characteristics are identified.

Based on our study de-identifying CVs did not solve the problem of gender equality, or lack of diversity, at senior levels within the APS. This study is the first building block in a broader evidence base that is needed to determine what works to improve diversity in recruitment. It tested shortlisting decisions in a hypothetical recruitment situation.

More broadly, it is important to consider where else bias could be happening. This includes how positions are advertised, how interviews are conducted, and how hiring panels are selected and managed. More work needs to be done to address gender balance and diversity in our workplaces, with all stages of the recruitment process part of this solution. Given the importance of this issue, we intend to keep looking and test what works in real world settings.

The full report is available on the BETA webpage.