Research clearly documents the effects of bias on hiring. In one experiment, for example, a Yale University psychologists showed that people were more likely to hire a male police chief—even when a woman with the exact same resume was in the running.
One metaphor I’ve found useful is comparing bias to procrastination. We know a lot about procrastination—academics have studied why we do it, and yet that understanding does nothing to make it any easier to not procrastinate. External tools like Internet blockers, to-do lists and productivity apps may help, even if they never truly eliminate or get to the core of the problem.
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I have engineers on my software-development team who use apps to block Facebook to reduce distractions during work hours. Our tendency to procrastinate is an excellent example that, as humans, we’re not always able to self-regulate.
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This concept is also proven true in the case of team building: We know we want to diversify our workplaces and expand our talent pools, but in the moment of electing who to hire, we tend to default to the candidate who reminds us of ourselves.
The solution here is similar to the solution to procrastination: technology. At Unitive, we’ve developed software that analyzes people’s resumes based on only their qualifications—the system is literally blind to the applicant’s identity. We’re not the only company doing this, either. GapJumpers, Jopwell and Blendoor also help provide technology that prevents implicit biases from influencing decisions during the hiring process.
We won’t solve implicit bias in 2016. But we can drive change leaps and bounds beyond what we’ve accomplished already with a new, data-driven approach. Through technology, we can sidestep the bias that has shaped our institutions for too long and finally realize the change required for growth, shareholder value and getting to a society of more equal representation.
Laura Mather is the founder and CEO of Unitive, a data-driven approach to hiring.