This video came up on the Facebook page of Clementine Ford, an Australian Feminist. It’s about “unconscious bias” the biases we all carry that affect decisions we make, including hiring decisions. It cites the orchestra that auditioned musicians from behind a curtain so that the judges could not determine their gender. Now an Australian film festival is doing something similar after noticing that only 5% of finalists were women, following blind judging that number rose to 50%.
Sexism is not the only bias judges and employers hold, there are reports from the US, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands that associations of race and nationality are made based on a person’s name, often to the disadvantage of non-white candidates. And we all remember the Academy awards a few years ago releasing #OscarsSoWhite.
We know that diversity is good for business, but we’re bad at it. So how could we make our hiring or judging processes better for diversity?
You need to make the unconscious bias visible. In the Tropfest case the organisation looked at their finalists and found that only 5% were female. I’d bet good money that was a lower percentage than anyone realised before doing the research.
Do some research in your own organisation; how many women and minorities are hired? How many are making it through to the highest decision-maker level? If you’re organising a conference do you have a diverse range of speakers? (if you have to try harder it’s your network at fault) If you’re an award giving organisation how many of your nominees are people of colour, LGBT+ or women? And how many of your judges… you get the idea.
Be aware of stereotypes associated with roles, I had a somewhat technical role in a communications department. The head of department congratulated me on helping the department’s diversity figures by hiring a man into a comms team. In reality I’d hired a guy into a slightly technical team — hardly striking a blow for equality. (For the record the gender split in my team was 40:60 women to men, while across the department the split was around 70:30)
Address the Gap
Make sure your company policies and practices encourage diversity — write new policies for your organisation if they don’t. Hint; do this with a diverse group for best results.
I wrote about other steps you can take in an earlier post called Diversity Works. This won’t get better just on good intentions, you will need to take action.
- make your hiring process more open; from neutral job ads to diversity on the interview panel, can you remove gender and ethnicity signifiers from the CVs for the first round of assessment?
- look for role models across the company from diverse groups, help them gain visibility across the company and outside the company. Think of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, their slogan is “if she can see it, she can be it”.
- support groups set up to help minorities in your organisation
- state your diversity practices on your website and in your job advertisements (Shell has a statement about women in leadership that it puts on every job vacancy)
- make sure senior people in your company are able to speak about diversity, and do so comfortably — nothing will sink your diversity efforts more quickly than an insincere executive.
- educate your leaders, your managers, your teams
- build diversity into your personal network
Diversify Your Network
We all gravitate towards people who look like us, sound like us, share our values. Start building your network to be more inclusive; follow people on twitter who are not like you, read different perspectives, listen to speakers from radically different backgrounds. LISTEN to what they have to say. Resist the temptation to disagree, to put your point of view, to defend yourselves (this is the misstep made by all those well meaning #notallmen posters).
One of the best posts around on this is from Tin Geber, he’s talking about male privilege in relation to inviting women to speak at conferences, but the principles still apply. As he concludes;
It’s on me — and each person reading this — to actively strive to rebalance the playing field.
The Australian Film Festival went to 5% women finalists to 50% women finalists. They measured their progress and then they talked about it. It must have given aspiring women film directors a boost.
Measure your progress, and talk about it only once you have seen specific improvements.
A lack of diversity won’t change without specific, sustained action. Starting with people of privilege listening and making room.
Originally published at changememe.com on February 16, 2017.