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You need to have a 'No Arsehole' rule. If someone is known to be difficult to work with, don't hire them.

Gender inequality remains a challenge in many workplaces. Managers, irrespective of gender, are twice as likely to hire a man compared to a woman [1]. As a consequence, women remain largely underrepresented in the workplace. This is especially so in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, with women comprising only 16% of Australia’s STEM employees [2]. The result is economic and social inequality between men and women. Equitable performance and hiring systems are critical in reducing the gender disparity in workplaces and leadership roles.


How do hiring and promotion work?


Organizational recruitment [3] refers to the process of attracting competent and interested individuals from the external job market to fill a vacancy. Throughout the recruitment process there are many factors that affect applicants’ organizational attractiveness and their probability of accepting a job offer. Prior research [4] has shown factors in recruitment vary in their impact on applicant progress at different stages of recruitment. During early stages, such as the initial interview, the following factors were significantly associated with applicant reactions:

  • demographic characteristics e.g., recruiter age, educational degree, recruiting experience, job type;

  • interview characteristics e.g., degree of interview structure, tendency to tell applicants how they were evaluated;

  • applicants’ perceptions of recruiter empathy.

During later stages of the recruitment process, job attributes (e.g., job location, salary, title) were more important in understanding applicant reactions.


Once embedded within an organisation, existing employees may also proactively pursue a job promotion [5] within the company. This can also be a result of good employees’ job performance.


Job performance [6] refers to the expected organizational value of an employee. This plays an important role in defining the company’s success. Cooperative, hard-working and dependable employees are more effective in their work, which positively affects organizational performance.


How are hiring and promotion decisions gender-biased?


Gender inequality is an issue for both hiring and promotion decisions. Prior research has shown that women are less frequently employed in jobs that offer promotion possibilities [7]. This is especially the case after taking parental leave; although high-achieving men and women share similar levels of ambition in the workplace and at home, it is women who are more likely to be rerouted into roles that are seen as more “family-friendly”, but are also less challenging and offer less opportunities for career growth and promotion [8].

  • Academic mentors were more likely to accept a meeting request from prospective male and Caucasian doctoral students, compared to applicants who were female or from a minority ethnic background [10].

  • Physics professors rated male applicants as more competent and hireable than identical female candidates, and also demonstrates racial preferences for Asian and Caucasian applicants. Biology professors, in contrast, do not show gender bias but also show racial biases [11]

  • The gender composition of university committees affects academic promotions [12]. In all-male committees, members were less favourable toward women when deciding on promotions to full professor positions. A larger proportion of women on the evaluation committee, led to greater chances of female applicants being promoted to full professor positions. This emphasizes the effectiveness of gender quotas in hiring and promotion committees.

In Academia

In Academia

  • A study of potential job applicants in a Swedish public employment database found female candidates were 15% less likely to be contacted by potential employers compared to male candidates [13].

  • A meta-analysis found that men were preferred for male-dominated roles, but that there was no gender bias for applicants for female-dominated roles [14]

  • The Women in the Workplace report noted that companies’ hiring and promotion processes disadvantage women [15]. Statistics showed that women are less likely to be hired into entry-level and managerial jobs, and are far less likely to be promoted; for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 79 women are.

In Industry

In Industry

Participative (democratic)[4]

Succession planning and leadership development


Succession planning [16] and Leadership development [17] are two fundamental processes for assessing and developing the leadership talent of an organization [18]. To ensure success in this area, organisations must consider the following key aspects [19][20]:

  • Measure and monitor regular progress, focusing on rapid, radical, and continuous change

  • Increase complex challenges

  • Offer greater leadership responsibilities at lower levels (task migration [21])

  • Recruit and retain the best talent and identify linchpin positions (i.e., those jobs that are important to the long-term health of the organization)

  • Be flexible and transparent


However, there are various obstacles that often get in the way of successful succession planning, such as:

  • Event-based or episodic thinking [19]
    Succession planning is an on-going process and is embedded in all kinds of work activities and behaviours. It should not be addressed episodically.

  • Over-embedding the initiative within a single champion
    Companies often have a “champion” who is the driver for success. This can cause disruptions if that person derails the initiative or leaves the organisation without an appropriate successor.

  • Not connecting development with strategic business imperatives
    Don’t try to develop just for development’s sake. Identify what specifically needs to be developed and why.

  • Under-emphasizing the personal accountability
    There should be personal accountability and follow-up. Ensuring that accountability and follow ups are part of the process leads to learning and development becoming a continuous, intentional processes.

  • Lack of fit with organizational culture [22]
    Poor fit with organizational culture can lead to resistance or out right hostility when implementing succession management initiatives.

  • Lack of adequate support for development
    Individual development requires all sorts of resources, such as positive reinforcement. Returning to a supportive environment ensures that positive development is further encouraged and implemented.

Strategies for making hiring processes more inclusive


The Universities Australia Executive Women (UAEW) group and Jo Fisher, managing director of Fisher Leadership, developed a set of recruitment guidelines to ensure gender diversity in the workforce [24]. These guidelines are categorised along four broad recruitment stages:


  • Ensure workforce planning and readiness for diversity

  • (Re)define role specifications

  • Apply gender-neutral language in candidate information

  • Broaden selection criteria

  • Emphasize capabilities

  • Assess values, cultural, and motivational fit

Example gender-neutral language: Consider language in your job advertisements that unconsciously discourages men or women from applying e.g., for a teaching role, avoid using the words “nurturing”, “caring”, “warm” as this may discourage male applicants. In contrast, for a consultant job, avoid using the words “assertive’ or “competitive”; women may feel that they do not fit the job description [25].



  • Apply gender diversity attraction strategies

  • Ensure transparent and diverse advertising approaches

  • Encourage internal candidates

  • Consider using an executive search firm

  • Allow time for passive candidates to come forward

Example targeted advertising: A company can use targeted recruitment to encourage applicants from a specific group (e.g., women). Previous research showed that a modified job advertisement targeting applicants with disabilities doubled the number of applicants from that group [26].



  • Ensure diverse membership of selection panels

  • Offer training in addressing unconscious bias in the interview phase

  • Provide candidate support

  • Evaluate and assess practices

  • Ensure short listing with the selection panel

  • Select and reference the preferred candidate

  • Clarify candidate offer and contract negotiation

Example effectiveness of unconscious bias training: Unconscious bias trainings can be used to address the impact of unconsciously held beliefs about social and demographic differences that can affect workplaces decisions. Unconscious bias training has shown to be effective in increasing people’s self-efficacy and intentions that led to diversity-supportive behaviours [25][26]. 


Appointment and integration

  • Review candidate experience and make pre-appointment

  • Prepare appointment and induction process

  • Invest in integration program

  • Aim for retention by agreeing on a development plan for the employee)

  • Build leadership talent pipelines and succession planning processes

Example Gender Integration Framework: FHI 360 developed a Gender Integration Framework [27]. Gender integration requires applied strategies in program planning, assessment, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. The framework challenges gender-based inequalities and strives to transform gender norms and increase gender equality.


Suggested links

Suggested videos and podcasts

Organisational strategies, policies and practices
for supporting women in research

Women in Research "Small Wins" Webinar
with ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Sharon Parker and
ARC Centre Director and former ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Peter Taylor

Gender Equality - Targets and Quotas
Professor Nanda Dasgupta.png
Mahananda Dasgupta's Podcast - Interview by Sharon Parker
Gender Equality - Organisations
See full reference list
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  2. Waddington, L. (n.d.). Women make up only 16% of Australia’s STEM fields and that’s a problem. Retrieved from

  3. Heneman, H. G., Schwab, D. P., Fossum, J. A., & Dyer, L. D. (1983). Personnel/Human Resource Management. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.

  4. Taylor, M. S., & Bergmann, T. J. (1987). Organizational recruitment activities and applicants’ reactions at different stages of the recruitment process. Personnel Psychology, 40(2), 261-285. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.1987.tb00604.x

  5. Job promotion [Def. 1]. In Business Dictionary. Retrieved from

  6. Motowidlo, S. J. (2003). Job performance. In W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen, & R. J. Klimoski (Eds.), Handbook of psychology and organizational psychology (pp. 39-53). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  7. Groot, W., & Maassen van den Brink, M. (1996). Glass ceilings or dead ends: Job promotion of men and women compared. Economics Letters, 53, 221-226. doi:10.1016/S0165-1765(96)00902-0

  8. Ely, R., Stone, P., & Ammerman, C. (2014, Dec). Rethink what you “know” about high-achieving women. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

  9. Hellman, M. E., Wallen, A. S., Fuchs, D., & Tamkins, M. M. (2004). Penalties for success: Reactions to women who succeed at male gender-typed tasks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(3), 416-427. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.416

  10. Milkman, K. L., Chugh, D., & Akinola, M. (2015). What happens before? A field experiment exploring how pay and representation differentially shape bias on the pathway into organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(6), 1678-1712.

  11. Eaton, A., Saunders, J., Jacobsen, R., & West, K. (2019). How gender and race stereotypes impact the advancement of scholars in STEM: Professors’ biased evaluations of physics and biology post-doctoral candidates. Sex Roles, online first article. doi: 10.1007/s11199-019-01052-w

  12. Zinovyeva, N., & Bagues, M. (2011). Does gender matter for academic promotion? Evidence from a randomized natural experiment. IZA Discussion Paper 5537.

  13. Edin, P.A., & Lagerström, J. (2006). Blind dates: Quasi-experimental evidence on discrimination (No. 2006:4). Working paper, IFAU-Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation.

  14. Koch, A. J., D'mello, S. D., & Sackett, P. R. (2015). A meta-analysis of gender stereotypes and bias in experimental simulations of employment decision making. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(1), 128-161.

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  16. Hirsh, W. (2000). Succession planning demystified. Brighton, UK: Institute for Employment Studies.

  17. Van Velsor, E., & McCauley, C. D. (2004). Our view of leadership development. In C. D. McCauley & E. Van Velsor (Eds.), The Center for Creative Leadership handbook of leadership development (pp. 1-22, 2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  18. Lewis, R. E., & Heckman, R. J. (2006). Talent management: A critical review. Human Resource Management Review, 16(2), 139-154. doi:10.1016/j.hrmr.2006.03.001

  19. Day, D. V. (2007). Developing leadership talent: A guide to succession planning and leadership development: Guidelines for effective talent management (SHRM Foundation’s Effective Practice Guidelines Series). Alexandria, VA: Society for Human Resource Management Foundation.

  20. Conger, J. A., & Fulmer, R. M. (2003). Developing your leadership pipeline. Harvard Business Review, 81(12), 76-84.

  21. Singhal, M., & Shivaratri, N. G. (1994). Advanced concepts in operating systems. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

  22. Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (4th ed., Jossey-Bass Business Management Series). Hoboken, NJ: Jossey Bass Incorporated.

  23. Gorman, E. H. (2005). Gender stereotypes, same-gender preferences, and organizational variation in the hiring of women: Evidence from law firms. American Sociological Review, 70(4), 702-728. doi:10.1177/000312240507000408

  24. Universities Australia Executive Women (2018). Best practice recruitment guidelines to fast forward the advancement of women in Australian university executive appointment. Retrieved from

  25. Morse, G. (2016). Designing a bias-free organization. In Harvard Business Review. Retrieved form

  26. Victorian Government (2018). Recruit smarter: Report of findings. Retrieved from

  27. FHI 360 (2012). Gender Integration Framework: How to integrate gender in every aspects of our work. Durham, NC: Author.

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