Monday, 3 April 2017

Hiring on skill

The 'big five' US orchestras - the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra - had very few women musicians until four of them - excluding Cleveland -  changed their selection process to include blind auditions. Those orchestras went from a percentage of women of around 10% in the 1970s to in the thirties by the mid-90s. 

In fact, to make that change in numbers, as orchestras have a glacial pace of musician turnover, most of those orchestras hired women. The New York Philharmonic has hired 50% women since they changed their process (Goldin & Rouse, 2000).

So it wasn't skill that was lacking. It is suspected that the problem was perception and bias. 

The authors, Goldin and Rouse, state that the "blind audition procedure fostered impartiality in hiring" and that "Sex-biased hiring has been alleged for many occupations but is extremely difficult to prove" (2000, p. 715). They also note that blind auditions make it 50% more likely for women to get on the short list.

Let's consider the statistics which show women are more highly qualified on average than men. Lets consider that there are as many women in the workforce as there are men. Lets consider that there are more women than men starting new businesses.

So then when we look at the top 50 listed New Zealand stock exchange companies, none of whom have a woman on the board, and most of whom have no women as officers, I like to have a think about what Goldin and Rouse found.

And I come to the conclusion that wouldn't it be great if we could use a blind process for board directorships, and be rather more sure that we were hiring on skill set alone.



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