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The Authority Gap

Updated: Jul 17


A gender scale

Mary Ann Sieghart's "The Authority Gap" is a must-read for anyone who's ever felt underestimated, overlooked, or patronised at work.  It's a wake-up call for those who may unknowingly perpetuate such biases.  While the book focuses on gender, its message of checking our assumptions and treating everyone fairly is universal – and crucial in the recruitment process.


The book's central argument is simple: women aren't taken as seriously as men in their professional lives. Mary Ann shares an anecdote where a man at a dinner party dismisses her impressive career achievements as the work of a "busy little girl". She was 50 at the time, older than the current Prime Minister.


Mary Ann argues that men are assumed competent until proven otherwise, while women are assumed incompetent until proven otherwise.  She supports this claim with numerous academic studies and interviews with high-ranking women worldwide. This unconscious bias is hard to spot, and women are just as guilty of it as men.


She gives numerous examples of the gender bias in action at schools and in the workplace, as well as at home.


As asset management recruitment consultants, we are particularly interested in how to prevent gender biases from discriminating against women in the recruitment process – not least as the asset management sector needs to improve its gender diversity.


Luckily, Mary Ann doesn't just point out the problem: she offers solutions. For recruitment firms, she recommends including at least two women on every shortlist. Mary Ann's research shows that having more than one woman on a shortlist makes it 79 times more likely that a woman will be hired. Having only one woman reinforces the belief that men are the natural choice for the role, making hiring a woman seem risky. 


That is why Godliman strongly encourages all our clients to follow The Godliman Rule, based on the NFL’s Rooney Rule. 


Clearly, it's also important to make sure that women are well-represented on the Interview panels. But, given that women also can have unconscious bias against women, this is not enough. 


Here are five additional recommendations to safeguard against The Authority Gap and gender bias in the recruitment process:

 

1.     Structured and Standardised Interviews

  • Standardize Questions: Use a fixed set of questions for every candidate to ensure consistency.

  • Structured Scoring: Implement a structured scoring system to evaluate responses objectively.  We use a scorecard as a discussion tool with clients and to help us rank candidates consistently and objectively.

 

2.    Objective Assessment Tools

  • Skills Testing:  Use practical tests and assessments that measure the skills required for the job.  At Godliman, we use standardised online testing to help assess behaviours and aptitudes.

  • Work Samples:  Ask candidates to provide work samples relevant to the job to evaluate their abilities directly. 

 

3.    Transparent and Accountable Decision-Making

  • Document Decisions: Keep detailed records of why decisions are made at each stage of the recruitment process.

  • Structured Feedback: Make sure that there is detailed and specific feedback, justifying the scores given. All too often feedback is vague and impressionistic. Review the feedback and scorecards to check for systemic biases.

 

4.    Clear and Inclusive Job Descriptions

  • Gender-Neutral Language: Use gender-neutral language in job descriptions to avoid deterring female applicants. We have written about this in our post on Invisible Women.

  • Focus on Essential Skills: Emphasize essential skills and experience over unnecessary qualifications.

 

5.    Training and Awareness

  • Unconscious Bias Training: Provide regular training on unconscious bias for all employees, especially those involved in hiring.

  • Cultural Inclusion: Foster a culture of inclusivity and respect within the organization. We have written about Inclusion here.

 

Most of these changes are relatively easy to implement – the training more burdensome, but the benefits of being aware of our unconscious biases are immense.  By being open-minded and fair, we can all contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society.


Mary Ann ends on a hopeful note, citing research that shows closing the authority gap benefits everyone, not just women. She highlights the increased happiness levels in more gender-equal societies and believes the gap can be closed in one generation if we all pitch in.


For more advice on how you can structure your hiring processes to encourage more inclusive and successful diversity hiring, please contact us on hello@godliman.com

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