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Do women face a tougher time in interviews than men?

11 Jul 17 - 12:36PM  | General recruitment/employment law
Do women face a tougher time in interviews than...Interviews are often the make or break part of an application, and most people have experienced a nightmare scenario during their career.

Arriving late, stumbling over a killer question or generally letting nerves get the best of you are all common problems for candidates, particularly those who are unprepared.

But what if you're not receiving fair treatment from the outset? Is discrimination still a problem for applicants in 2017?

Unfortunately, a new study has suggested that women face tougher interview conditions than their male counterparts - in the academic realm at least.

More questions, less presentation time

Research from the University of California and the University of Southern California, published in the Journal of Social Sciences, found that hiring panels were more likely to interrupt and question female interviewees.

The universities filmed 119 interviews and analysed the results, with women applicants interrupted with an average of five questions per interview, compared to four for men.

Furthermore, female candidates typically also received two more follow-up questions, meaning they were asked a total of three more queries than men. In other words, women spent a greater proportion of their time in front of a panel fielding questions.

According to the study, which was reported in the Daily Telegraph, this led to women rushing presentations in an effort to reach compelling conclusions. The frequency with which hirers asked women to "prove it again" during interviews was also higher.

"Even shortlisted women with impressive CVs may still be assumed to be less competent, are challenged, sometimes excessively, and therefore have less time to present a coherent and compelling talk," the report stated.

"[These] subtle conversational patterns … form an almost invisible bias, which allows a climate of challenging women's competence to persist."

Gender bias in the finance sector

The study only explored academia, but the results have interesting implications for other sectors, especially those that are already considered male-dominated, such as finance.

A recent PwC survey revealed that only one-third (35 per cent) of female millennials feel they can rise to senior levels within their financial services (FS) firm, which was less than half the proportion who said the same among men.

Tellingly, 34 per cent of Generation Y women in FS said they left their last employer due to a lack of career progression opportunities, yet only six per cent said senior positions at their company weren't attractive. This suggests women want to climb the career ladder but often feel there are insurmountable obstacles to them reaching the top.

Additionally, around 50 per cent of women believe there is bias towards men during the promotion process, which inevitably includes internal interviews among viable candidates.

In fact, a 2016 survey from Debut showed that women across a variety of sectors are three times as likely as men to face inappropriate interview questions.

The extent of gender bias in interviews

UK law prohibits employers from asking candidates about their age, health, relationships or family plans, yet many applicants reported being grilled on these issues.

For example, nearly one-quarter of female candidates in the Debut research were queried on their future family plans, while 17 per cent were expected to expand on their current childcare arrangements. Only 9 per cent of men were asked about their family plans and zero reported employer inquiries into their existing childcare.

Among the most inappropriate questions that women claimed to have received were:
  • "How likely are you to be wanting or planning to have a baby in the next year or so?"
  • "You're quite a good looking girl, have you got yourself a boyfriend?"
  • "You look really young! Are you sure you're old enough to be applying for a job here?"

Tackling the problem

Jon Terry, global leader of financial services people at PwC, said senior role models are a key part of improving gender diversity and preventing discrimination in FS.

He added that the recent Women in Finance Charter, which various multinational brands have signed, should help boost equality within the sector.

"Attracting more women at all levels could provide the catalyst needed for a real shift in attitudes," Mr Terry told the Daily Telegraph.

However, sadly, the upshot of the research is that employers appear to still have some way to go before gender discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, is eliminated from the recruitment process.

We can only hope that initiatives such as the Women in Finance Charter and other diversity-driven research and projects will deliver a brighter, fairer future for everyone.

Our 2017 Market Reports combine our review of the prevailing conditions in the corporate governance recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.ADNFCR-1684-ID-801837737-ADNFCR
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