Using CVs To Reduce Gender Inequity – Pomil Broch, NITIE Mumbai

As schoolkids, we are all trained to write our names legibly on the answer sheet before we begin answering the questions. It is so ingrained in our education system that it almost becomes a reflex as soon as we see the answer sheet. The muscle memory immediately helps us pen down our name, roll number, section, class. It is like flexing your muscles before the big fight.

As with all habits, this one too is difficult to overcome, as the students write board exams and entrance exams, it is almost impulsive to write our name on the answer sheet, only to find that there is no such column. Disbelief, Right? How can an examination be demarcated complete without even writing one’s name? At the first go, it feels incomplete. Why did all those school teachers keep emphasizing on writing the name on the answer sheet? Did it suddenly become irrelevant?

But as Indians, we tend to get used to the changing scenario quickly. As the students write tons and tons of board exams and the treacherous entrance exams, the only thing that matters is THE ROLL NUMBER. It almost becomes a living entity, a unique procession. Many would vouch for the thrill of seeing one’s roll number pop up in the list of toppers as second to none.

The notion of having to write one’s name, or in most cases one’s full name (FIRST MIDDLE LAST) has always fascinated me. But to a certain extent, we can understand writing one’s name on answer sheets during school examination. Firstly, because there are only a limited number of students in each class and the teacher has a personal rapport with each student and can recall them at any instant by their name. Secondly, no one wants to be called by a number during school.

But the scale increases, the stage becomes bigger and judges sit behind the curtain when it comes to board or entrance exams. They don’t have a personal attachment to the names and thus a roll number suffices. No emotional baggage here, it is all plain logic. This reduces chances of playing the favorite, the roll number is just a number.

Now, all this makes sense right? Here is where the problem lies, why to write our full names and gender on our C.Vs or resume. By the same logic as explained earlier, the company trying to hire you is virtually a non-known entity for you and ideally speaking, how does your name or gender affect your chances of selection. On the contrary, I believe that it only creates a bias.

Organizations these days focus a lot on ensuring gender and cultural diversity, so they try to recruit a diverse set of employees. This is all okay but not at the cost of compromising worthy talent. The first and foremost criteria should be relevant academic and professional backgrounds and then the diversity should come into play.

As they say, sake for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell. If a company is shortlisting candidates just for sake of their gender or cultural background, then it defeats the purpose of the hard work one has to do to ensure a sound academic and professional background.

This harms both the ideal candidates and the organization in the long run as the right candidates are sacrificed to ensure diversity. Diversity should be a factor when you have three (say) candidates of near equal capabilities and then you choose the one which enhances you workforce diversity.

These two practices can be started to ensure that right candidates find the right jobs.

1. Resumes/C.Vs should be drafted under a fixed format. That is to say, follow a universally set procedure to write names. For example, why not just write the initials of first and middle names instead of the full names.

Frank James Underwood could be simply written as F J Underwood.

This practice could be crucial because sometimes first names give an indication of the gender of the candidate. For example, a Claire Underwood is most likely to be a female candidate and therefore might just be preferred over a male candidate to ensure diversity.

I understand that there can be problems for people who use only a single name (first name) in the documents but all I am trying to say is give this new approach a try. With time, if the approach takes on, people will be forced to write initials followed by a sir name.


2. Drop the gender from the resumes, CVs.

This gets tricky here:

What if a company wants only female candidates (say for the position of a receptionist, yes I know I am being stereotypical here, excuse me for that)? In this case, inform the candidates beforehand about the gender specific requirements.

What if there is a regulation to take x% of females compulsorily? Again, roll out a disclaimer saying the intake of the candidates is in a specific gender ratio, thereby giving a clear indication beforehand.

I know these practices sound highly optimistic but it is high time that it needs to start. I simply cannot emphasize the importance the NOT sacrificing the right candidates for the sake of just ensuring diversity.


(The article was submitted by Pomil Bachan Broch of NITIE.)

NITIE Mumbai

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