Holding court: Leveling the hiring playing field


In my day, I have done a lot of freelance work in the fuzzy areas of human resources, recruiting, resume/CV editing and coaching. That’s involved a lot of digging into a whole host of things that are related but not central to hiring and candidate marketability. For example, employment law, discrimination and similar topics. This has tangentially led me to a lot of material about gender inequality.

Just today I stumbled onto an article about a job ad that was so ridiculous that it has gone global in its blatant sexism. It encourages women in particular to apply for the content writing/SEO management job because the incumbent will be required to fill in for the receptionist. There’s nothing wrong, as the article points out, with wanting to bring more women into the tech sphere (as most of the job duties described would do) – but the receptionist part is… well, insulting to everyone. (Discouraging, subtly or not, women from going into tech and scientific fields is not a unique phenomenon by any meansinspiring whole white papers on the subject. But it’s far from isolated to technology disciplines. It’s everywhere.)

Much has been made in recent years about the potential benefit to job candidates of “blind applications” in which only qualifications (stripped of any mention of gender, name or other identifying detail) are presented without the applicant’s name. (This is also true in a lot of cases for any group of people – studies have been done to find out whether “name blind” applications will reduce or eliminate racial/cultural discrimination). Anonymized applications, according to IZA World of Labor, will help level the playing field but cannot eliminate all forms of discrimination (what can? There are theories on this, too, such as implementing skills-based, gamified recruiting, competitions, etc. that can also strip away bias). It’s impossible to completely eliminate discrimination when, for example, the discrimination can just be moved to a later point in the hiring process or when contextual information that remains in an application can influence bias (e.g. graduation years/dates, for example. Age discrimination, too, is real).

When I wrote that discrimination is everywhere, and is rampant in technology, check out this article from Slate about the Nancy Lieberman. If you look only at the qualifications for a potential new NBA head coach, she is head and shoulders (forgive the lameness of using that term in relation to basketball) above the others in the list, particularly if you’ve removed all mention of timeframes, gender, etc. She is experienced and decorated. I imagine there are naysayers who won’t accept comparing “women’s sports” and “men’s sports” like for like, but that’s easily negated when you consider that many head coaches have never played professionally in ANY league.

“And while this shouldn’t need saying, it unfortunately does: There would be so many reasons beyond gender to pick Lieberman. She has been committed to the game of basketball for decades. Her passion for the game and ability to convey its nuances are a gift. Lieberman has probably forgotten more about basketball than some coaches will ever know. The award that is bestowed upon the nation’s top women’s collegiate point guard annually has her name on it.

The above blind résumés offer an objective look at why it is time for more women to get opportunities in all of professional sports—they belong there and would have a chance to help teams. The myth that an NBA head co ach had to actually have played in the NBA—one of the last arguments of opponents of female NBA coaches—has long ago been dispelled. Four of the above NBA assistant coaches never played in the NBA, and all are qualified to some degree or another for a head coaching job. Almost half of the current 30 head coaches in the NBA never played in a single game in the league. Two of those coaches—Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra—have won a combined seven NBA championships.

In today’s professional climate it has generally become accepted that an applicant for an open position will be judged on merit, experience, and ability to complete a job without facing discrimination based on race, gender, religious beliefs, or inclusion in any other protected class.”