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Can de-biasing increase BAME numbers in STEM sectors?

Khyati Sundaram - Applied

Research has found that using a recruitment process that proactively removes hiring bias results in significantly more Black and ethnic minority candidates securing jobs at STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) companies.

Applied, a tech platform which focuses on removing bias from recruitment processes, analysed 40,000 job applications for roles in UK-based STEMM organisations. Of the candidates who were successfully hired following a de-biased process, 26% self-identified as Black or an ethnic minority.

This is in stark contrast to existing figures. Black and ethnic minority workers make up 12% of the UK workforce. However, according to the Royal Society, they only make up 10.5% of the scientific workforce.

Additionally, a 2018 Engineering UK report found that only 8.1% of people working in engineering were from Black and ethnic minority groups. Figures for Black and ethnic minority women are even more stark, with women representing less than 2% of all engineering professionals.

65% of the STEMM workforce, which employs 5.9 million people in the UK, are white men.

Compared to these comparative metrics, Applied’s study showed that using a de-biased hiring process helped teams to hire 2.4 – 3.4 times as many candidates from under-represented ethnicity groups.

The UK currently has a 13% ethnic minority employment gap. According to the latest Government figures, only 66% of those aged 16-64 who identify as non-white are employed, compared to 79% who identify as white.

This research shows that when steps are taken to level the playing field, black and ethnic minority job seekers are far more successful in their applications for roles at STEMM companies, indicating the impact both conscious and unconscious bias have in traditional recruitment processes.

The Applied system removes identifying information from job applications, such as name, address, hobbies, and university. It then asks candidates to answer questions that demonstrate their skill-set and capability to do the job. These answers are randomised with the answers of other candidates before being scored and peer-reviewed. This ensures hiring decisions are made on skills and aptitude, rather than on shared interests or ‘gut feel’.

Khyati Sundaram, CEO of Applied, comments: “Hiring bias, whether conscious or unconscious, is everywhere. It’s stopping people getting jobs they are qualified for. That’s why we have such a stark employment gap between white workers and their black and ethnic minority counterparts. This data shows just how quickly this chronic discrimination can be rectified.

When you actively take the bias out of the hiring process, you level the playing field and organically create a more diverse workforce. Black and ethic minority workers are under-represented in crucial STEMM fields such as engineering and science, but this data proves that it’s not because they lack the skills or qualifications; they’re simply not being given a fair chance to demonstrate them.”

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