Unconscious Bias: what is it?

Unconscious biases are stereotypes that we form about certain groups of people outside of conscious awareness. This stems from our tendency to categorize and organize social groups based on shared characteristics.

Why does Unconscious Bias happen at work?

Unconscious bias and stereotyping appear at work when making hiring, promotion and compensation-related decisions.  Everything else being equal between a male and female employee, unconscious bias often leads to giving a higher compensation to the male employee.

Men are often – subconsciously – perceived as having more authority and potential, and therefore, they are given more opportunities to advance and thrive on the job.

This doesn’t mean that the decision makers consciously want to give men preferential treatment, but it is an unconscious reaction to the engraved stereotype of seeing mostly men in management roles, in boardrooms and in scrubs.


What can you do to eliminate this Unconscious Bias gender bias?

Evaluate Work, Not People!

In the early stages of the recruitment process, blind CV evaluations would be the ideal solution for unconscious biases. If you don’t know the gender of the applicant, there would be no bias! The HR Department can send the concerned manager a list of filtered out candidate profiles with deleted names and gender-related info.

When the deciding factor in recruitment is objective – such as the quality of work – then women will be treated fairly and this will leave no room for unconscious bias to come in the way.


Use Gender Neutral Job Descriptions

Without any intention, many of us still use terms that are implicitly gender-coded. Society has a certain outlook of what men and women are like, and how they vary, and this can affect the terms that we use on daily basis.

Job descriptions that use male-oriented vocabulary can scare off female applicants. To make your job descriptions more neutral and gender inclusive, start by removing words that might imply that you’re seeking a male candidate such as “Competitive”, “Aggressive” or simply: “He”. Replace these words with more straightforward and inclusive language that is inviting to female applicants.

Highlight your company as an Equal Opportunity Employer

If your company is already moving toward becoming a Gender Inclusive workplace, you need to make job applicants and current employees aware about this. Start by adding a disclaimer in your job descriptions (at the top or bottom) stating that you are an “equality opportunity employer”.

The statement doesn’t have to include your perks, but you can add a few of them in the job description itself. Always remember that your job posting is usually the first contact point with your candidates, and they will see view them as signals of your company values and what you stand for as an employer.

Here’s an example of a statement that Akhtaboot – MENA’s leading recruitment portal – has added to the job description editor to encourage employers to use more gender neutral language in their job postings:

*Did you know that using gender-neutral job descriptions increases the number of job applications and helps eliminate gender bias against women?