Increasing Diversity In The Workplace

Increasing Diversity In The Workplace

By Changing The Application Process

Recently, I attended Google’s She Leads 2017 program. It was a full day talking with 35 remarkable women about the gender bias we still confront in today’s workplace.

Although there were several insightful and useful skills I took away from the event, there was one topic which struck a chord with me. The effect of unconscious bias in the hiring process.

I’ve always known unconscious bias existed when it came to personal names and what they can signal to the reader – cultural background and socio-economic standing. And I mean with a name like Lluvia, I am sure I have missed out on a few positions because my name is not a common English name.

But I never realised the effect gender bias had on the hiring process.

My awareness on this issue started with an unknown story about a very well-known event called Tropfest, the most prestigious short film competition and the largest short film festival in the world.

In the four years I lived in Sydney, I made it a point to attend Tropfest – rain or shine – because the event encompassed the power which film has on traversing cultural boundaries. I was proud to support an event which supported diversity in the film industry.


“I never realised the effect gender bias had on the hiring process”


It wasn’t until this past week I found out a shocking fact about Tropfest, its judging system and the affect it had on the selection of finalists.

Until recently, only 5% of directors who made up the Tropfest finalists were women. Let that number sink in. And no, I didn’t miss a zero, you read that correctly. Only 5% of finalists were women.

I kept thinking, in my head, how could that be? Tropfest, no way. They are all about diversity and inclusion. I kept making up excuses, like ‘Maybe a lot of women didn’t apply?’.

Now, I know the mainstream film industry has several issues when it comes to representing minorities and women. I mean as a Mexican-American woman from Los Angeles, I see it and I get it.

Call me naïve, but I didn’t think an independent film festival, which touts its roots in going against “the man” and doing its own thing, would suffer from the same pitfalls.

Sadly, this statistic held true. And this statistic shocked me.

It wasn’t until this past year for the first time, women made up 50% of the Tropfest finalists. And yes, you read that number correctly.

But why the massive jump? Did more women enter more films this year? So many questions…


Call me naïve, but I didn’t think an independent film festival… would suffer from the same pitfalls of Hollywood


According to Tropfest, there was one crucial factor that changed this year in the judging system.

People who wished to enter their film had their names removed from their entries. Simple enough, right? I bet many people thought there was this big institutional and cultural change which allowed for this massive jump, but the reality is it came down to one simple change – blind judging.

The fact a well-known organisation fell into the unconscious bias trap had me thinking how does this affect the way we hire?

Here in New Zealand and in most parts of the world, if not all parts, when you apply for a position it’s standard to include your name and sometimes a photo. I know in the U.S. adding your photo is not commonplace but in many places across Europe it is.

And I keep thinking, why does it matter what my name is? If I can do what is written on the job description why should I be unconsciously – maybe for others consciously – judged on superficial factors? I should be judged based on my skillset and how that fits into what I am being asked to deliver.


“I keep thinking, why does it matter what my name is?”


The hiring process is very much part of an older hiring model that needs to be re-vamped to reflect the changes our society wishes to encompass – one of inclusivity, one of equality.

If we know unconscious biases exist – from gender to ethnicity – why not remove these factors and just pay attention to how a person can fulfil the role. What does it matter their age, sex, gender or cultural background?

But how can we implement change, you ask?

After discussing with the women in my focus group, we came up with several solutions, some which would take longer to implement and others which can be done right away.

One simple solution is to ask candidates to remove their names and photos from their resumes.

I understand this might be difficult when it comes to providing contact details. Many of us have our names in our email addresses. And with platforms liked LinkedIn incorporating their platform into the job application process, removing factors such as name and gender become harder.

However, if a company or business really wants to hire the best talent, then they wouldn’t care about the sex or name of a candidate.

I truly believe the answer is out there and that there will be no one solution which can be adopted across industries. But I do strongly believe the importance and power of blind judging as part of the hiring process. After all, the more diversity a company has within their business (read more perspectives, more solutions, more inventions) the likelier they are to thrive and succeed.

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