Evaluate and recruit without being Influenced by Gender

Even though we are convinced of the importance of equal opportunities, our choices and behaviours are influenced by stereotypes and unconscious gender bias. This unconscious bias has a negative impact on female candidates. 

At ULiège, the number of female teaching staff is still insufficient, particularly with regards to the number of female full professors. In their 2018-2022 programme, the authorities decided not to insist on a quota, but rather to encourage a cultural change in ensuring that respect for diversity and equality of the sexes is shared by everyone, and by favouring incentive-based actions.

This desire validated during the board meeting of 3rd July 2019,  has resulted in several actions which have been put into place over the past two years. These include the support seminar for new managers, the Guide to inclusive writing (for the French language), an increase in the representation of women on decision-making commissions, the creation of a double list for honorary doctorates, grant schemes in fields where women are under-represented, the institutionalisation of teleworking, the #RESPECT campaign, and statistical monitoring.

We also wish to raise awareness within the nominations and promotions commissions and train their members in non-discriminatory evaluation and recruitment. In order to do this, the members of the commissions are invited to watch the  video "Recruitment Bias in Research Institutes" (Institucio CERCA, Barcelona, European Research Council), and to follow the advice included in the guide "Pour évaluer sans discriminer" (Evaluating without discriminating) which is currently being developed.

More Objective Evaluations

“Being conscious of the influence of biases allows us, individually and collectively, to move towards more objective evaluations, where women have the same opportunities as men. Only a recruitment policy which is respectful of equal opportunities can lead to having quality recruitment and finding the best person for the job.”

Anne-Sophie Nyssen, Vice-rectrice au Bien-être

Gender biases and stereotypes

Numerous biases and stereotypes penalise, even unconsciously, the recruitment of women. For example:

  • Science and excellence are traditionally associated with men.
  • The independence of women in their scientific and/or academic pursuits is more often called into question, which can have a negative impact.
  • Candidates who are mothers may be penalised, whereas fatherhood is favoured when men are being evaluated.
  • Groups evaluating candidates frequently discuss informal information (family situation, etc.) which tends to not be favourable to women.
  • Letters of reference written for female candidates are subtly different from those written for male candidates and can therefore be interpreted differently.
  • Several phenomena are regularly observed: 
    • “The halo effect”: first impressions can positively or negatively influence the evaluation process.
    • “The solo effect”: being the only member of a particular category within a group makes this person stand out and exposes them to criticism. One female candidate within a group of male candidates runs the risk of being evaluated according to gender stereotypes. 
    • “Affinity bias”: people have a tendency of favouring candidates who remind them of themselves or who have things in common with them.

What to do? Three key principles to respect

(In the guide "Pour évaluer sans discriminer”, currently being developed)

1. Define and question the evaluation criteria

  • Ask the same questions about every application.
  • Check that none of the pre-established criteria could be prejudicial to a group of people.
  • Avoid resorting to using informal criteria to judge an application.

2. Carefully follow the course of discussions

  • Draw colleagues’ attention to any potential signs of bias or gender stereotypes in their judgment of candidates.

3. Take time over decisions

  • Take the time to study the applications.
  • Dedicate as much time and attention to every application, whether they come from a man or a woman.
  • Take a step back: slowing down the process can allow more rational reflection and can help to avoid stereotyping.

Download the “Gender neutral recruitment” information sheet  



Recruitment bias (European Research Council)

How can you examine a candidate’s application independent of gender bias? This video from the European Research Council shows aspects that can positively or negatively influence a hiring panel.

Sources: UNIL, Université de Lausanne - Institucio CERCA, Barcelona

Sources : UNIL, Université de Lausanne - Institucio CERCA, Barcelone

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