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Unconscious bias hindering business growth, says Freshminds

Organisational efforts to improve diversity are having limited effect, largely down to unconscious bias, according to Freshminds.

Freshminds says recent figures show that while positive strides have been made to utilise technology and bypass existing biases that affect hiring and promotion decisions, a noticeable disparity between the sexes persists and shows no sign of abating.

Last month, a report published by McKinsey found that those companies with a low proportion of female and ethnically diverse executives were 29% more likely to financially underperform than their competitors.

Patrick White, innovation manager at Freshminds, said, “Although it is galling for those who consider the moral case for diversity enough, the mounting evidence of diversity’s commercial impact has seen it move from the passion project of a few individuals to a boardroom and investor level business concern.

“But the challenge organisations seek to overcome is the element of unconscious bias in the recruitment process. In the US, $8 billion is spent by corporates on ‘diversity training’ to no observable effect. The use of technology to improve is vital, but better technology needs to be applied more thoughtfully.”

Since 2011, the number of all-male FTSE boards has dropped from 152 in 2011 to eight today, yet the number of women occupying senior management roles remains disappointingly low. It’s a similar situation when it comes to ethnic minorities.

Despite people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds making up almost 13% of the UK population, just 6% of management jobs are held by ethnic minorities – at a cost of £24bn to the economy every year (source: Race in the Workplace).

White added, “Although just one part of the picture, if we do not start getting cleverer about fair and useful screening at entry levels we are unlikely to ever see equitable representation at management levels.

“Crucially, for organisations to achieve an equitable outcome when it comes to the way they recruit and promote applicants, they must test for what is relevant – unless of course the employer really does just want to know how good the candidate is at performing numerical reasoning tests.”

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