NSW Government research reveals new approach could promote equality in recruitment

A trial by the NSW Government shows it could just take a phone call and email to job candidates to begin driving gender equality in the workforce and help increase the number of senior leadership roles held by women.

The research, conducted by the NSW Government’s Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU), is in line with the NSW Premier’s Priority to increase the number of women in senior roles in the public service to 50% by 2025.

The data showed that women were less likely to apply for senior roles in government compared to men. In 2017 roughly 34% of applications to senior roles were from female candidates, compared to 66% from male applicants.

The BIU asked the question: Could an email and phone call with a recruitment manager encourage both male and female candidates to reapply for senior roles and close the gender gap in applications to senior roles?

“This year’s International Women’s Day theme is Generation Equal. Taking an evidence-based approach, we can change recruitment for the better to ensure it leads to a much fairer representation of diversity in the workforce,” Executive Director of Data, Insights and Transformation Simon Herbert said.

“A common challenge for organisations trying to reach equal representation of men and women in senior roles is that women simply do not apply for these roles at the same rate that men do.”

A trial by the BIU, in partnership with the Public Service Commission and several NSW Government agencies, found a follow-up email and phone call from a recruitment manager led to a change in candidates reapplying.

After six months, the combined interventions increased the likelihood of women reapplying for a senior role by 27% compared to the usual recruitment process and significantly reduced the gender gap between men and women reapplying for senior roles from 45% to just 4%.

When scaled across the entire NSW Government it’s estimated this could increase the proportion of women in senior roles by up to 0.5% each year and make a significant contribution to achieving equal gender representation in senior roles.

Since 2015 the representation of women in senior leadership roles has steadily increased from 33.4% to 40.3%.

The NSW Government is tracking well to reach its 50 per cent target of women in senior leadership roles by 2025 and will continue to review recruitment practices to ensure they promote and deliver equality.

The Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) helps NSW Government agencies to achieve measurably better outcomes for the people of NSW by guiding them on how to develop and test behavioural science solutions to policy, program and service goals.

Published 10 March 2020

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