Importance of Female Panellists in Recruitment

Importance of females on an interview panel“We aim for at least one woman on all selection panels even for roles where female industry participation is very low.” – Origin Energy

The above objective with the aim for at least one woman to be included on the shortlist for all roles was stated as a key sustainability goal by Origin Energy, an Australian energy company. This initiative has seen obvious success as the company has bagged the Employer of Choice for Women by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for several years.

A study was conducted by Evaluation UK and commissioned by The Scientific Affairs Board of the Royal Society of Chemistry to “identify what it is about the culture in certain departments and/or institutions, which causes women to apply for, and accept, posts and subsequently encourages them to remain in these departments and/or institutions.” One of the proposals in the study was that at least two women should sit on the interview panel.

A paper entitled Women in male-dominated industries: A toolkit of strategies (2013) recommends a gender diverse interview panel, which includes women from non-traditional roles.

The importance of female panellists in the recruitment process cannot be overemphasised. Here’s why.

1)    Increases objective assessment

The Australian Human Rights Commission points that a diverse panel consisting of both men and women increases the likelihood of objective assessment during the selection process. An equal representation where possible, ensures that both genders are given equal consideration.

2)    Gives an insight into any gender based bias

A tenet of recruitment is to judge if the candidate is a team player and an important aspect to that is to weed out stereotypical attitudes. A candidate’s attitude and reaction towards the female panellists gives us an inkling of the gender bias that the candidate may have towards women.” says Theresa Moozhiyil, Director – HR and Finance of Categis Solutions, a German based software company.

3)    Mitigates stereotypical attitude in selection

The “think manager, think male” phenomenon is attributed lesser to females than men. This becomes especially important when recruiting candidates at the managerial level. When the panel includes women who are at the managerial level themselves, this bias is mitigated.

4)    Empathetic response

Female candidates generally respond much better to women panellists when it comes to interview questions of a more personal nature. They sense the empathy and know that their answers will not be judged unfairly or placed out of context.

5)    Communicates fair policy of the company

As important as it is for the company to select a good candidate, the willingness of the employee to work with the company is also of vital importance. The panel is the face of the company to the candidate and the message that it conveys about the culture and values of the company is of paramount importance. The inclusion of women in the panel effectively communicates the equal growth opportunities for men and women in the company.

The importance of women in the interview panel is clear, but it requires much more than ensuring that the selection of the candidate is based solely on merit and is free from gender bias. Recruitment teams should be trained to focus on fair and grounded criteria, which are well documented and standardised. This eliminates the unconscious biases which may creep in if the panel follows an informal and subjective process.

Have you personally found more benefits in having female panellists in your recruitment process?


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