This year’s International Women’s Day asks us to imagine a gender-equal world. Using the theme #BreakTheBias, we are encouraged to imagine a life “free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination”.

Becca Guinchard, Global Account Director at behavioural assessment firm AssessFirst, is helping transform this inspiration into reality. She believes a data-driven approach is the only way to eradicate biases from one of the most notoriously discriminatory places for women – the workplace.

The three words that communicate this year’s IWD theme – break the bias – are compelling. Each day, in my working role, I am tasked with helping businesses do just that.

I know how difficult it is to eradicate biases in the workplace. And I know how the recruitment process can unwittingly dissuade an employer from hiring a woman.

Not long after starting my role, almost four years ago, I came across a report that still makes me exasperated – one in eight employers are reluctant to hire women who might have children.

These are employers who have openly stated their discriminatory views. So how many employers are being less than honest with their discrimination? What about pregnant women? And what about working mothers?

I took my role with a data-led behavioural assessment firm pre-pandemic. Naturally, I was aware that, one of the many misfortunes of lockdowns, would be the potential negative impacts on mothers working from home.

I was not expecting employers to increase the pressure on working mothers to perform. But this is exactly what happened, resulting in 42% of workers with children reporting that undue pressures significantly affected their wellbeing.

These discriminations have consequences across all types of employment, from low-wage services to professional management.

This has been demonstrated by Demography’s research, where 2,210 fictitious identical ‘candidates’ applied for jobs across all sectors. The candidates without children received consistently higher rates of call-back in all areas of work.

These reports – aligned with our data models – build a picture of a society where working mothers are routinely sidelined.

See, for example, the delay to gender pay gap reporting, and workplaces failing to adjust to encourage women back to work post-maternity – or the complete failure to provide childcare with flexible working policies.

At AssessFirst, we have been investing in research and development to remove biases through behavioural analytics. We have introduced a ‘blind’ hiring process based on data that matches key performers to candidates – our algorithms have been developed based on over twenty years of data to ‘break the bias’.

Applied as standard across all business sectors, this would provide a truly equal workplace, where value is attributed to motivation, potential and ability. It removes biases in a way that is beyond the traditional process.

And a recruitment process that is driven by technology satisfies the needs of both the business and the candidate. Each knows that the landscape is a much fairer one – and no single demographic is, even subconsciously, discriminated against.

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