How gender-blind is your recruitment process?

A client asked last week how we ensure gender fairness in our approach to a search. It’s a fair question: simply saying “we look for the best person” is not good enough.

We told the client of our pride that, as a company, we had a 50:50 gender ratio – despite the grim pictures of me and Matt dominating the website. (The office is also 30% BAME, and around one quarter LGBTQ+. Look at us, polishing our halos.) We also mentioned that we all had unconscious bias training, and always try to ensure a gender mix on every search. We felt pretty good.

But the client then asked for a breakdown of all the searches we had carried out over the last year to let them know what percentage of our searches had ended up with a woman being placed.

It turns out that around 65% of the placements this business made over the last year were men. This is a fairly discouraging figure on the face of it; but it also hides some interesting anomalies.

In the most senior roles – CEOs, MDs, etc – the ratio was almost exactly reversed: nearly 70% of general management placements over the last 12 months were women. At least boards seem to be getting the message that it is time for a change, and hopefully this change will trickle down the organisations in question.

But below that, gender stereotypes do seem to have a stronger grip. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, men still dominate in CTO / CIO roles: if we remove those from our figures, our male:female ratio switches to a more respectable 58:42%.  Sales leadership roles, particularly in SaaS clients,  are still also predominantly male, by a ratio of three to one. Editorial and creative roles, on the other hand, are 50/50, and the marketing directors we have placed in the last 12 months have been almost exclusively female.

The split between sectors can also affect gender outcomes. To illustrate: we work a great deal with information clients in the energy space. For all sorts of reasons, this sector has been historically dominated by men: a quick analysis of our searches across all disciplines in the sector shows that, where clients have insisted on a background in this sector, less than 25% of potential candidates are women. Where clients are open to candidates from different backgrounds, the ratio is 42:58.

One final piece of statistical analysis. It would appear that the awareness of the issue is having an impact, even if practices remain imperfect. We can measure this by looking at the gender of the hiring manager, and then at his or her hires. Looking back five years to 2014,  only 20% of our clients’ hires were “cross gender”: typically, though not exclusively, this meant men hiring men. Last year, the same measure yielded a more impressive 45% of hires being made by men of women, or women of men.

So, how can our clients ensure a better approach to gender-balanced recruitment? There are no easy answers, but the booklet we have prepared below (Seven Steps to Gender-Blind Recruitment) provides some simple steps that can help eliminate gender bias in recruitment processes.

Click here to get your free Gender-blind recruitment pdf.


Martin Tripp

[email protected]

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the mediainformationtechnologycommunications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.