Why Women Don’t Get Promoted or Hired – and How to Level the Field

The New York Times had an article recently regarding hiring practices and succession practices at Google – and Lord knows if Google is doing it, it must be important, and we must try and do the same thing.

What I liked about this article was it didn’t necessarily look at practices and processes. It looked at data, and the data found that Google – like almost every other large company – does a crappy job hiring and promoting women.

Shocking, I know, because if you’re a man you had no idea this was going on! In America of all places.

What Google found out

Beyond the obvious though, Google was able to dig into the data and find out the whys and make some practical changes that I think most companies can implement – and that I totally agree with. From the article:

Google’s spreadsheets, for example, showed that some women who applied for jobs did not make it past the phone interview. The reason was that the women did not flaunt their achievements, so interviewers judged them unaccomplished.

Google now asks interviewers to report candidates’ answers in more detail. Google also found that women who turned down job offers had interviewed only with men. Now, a woman interviewing at Google will meet other women during the hiring process.

A result: More women are being hired.”

2 hiring and selection facts

Here are two selection facts that impact both men and women:

  1. We like to surround ourselves with people who we like – which usually means in most cases people who are similar to ourselves.
  2. We tend not to want to brag about our accomplishments, but our society has made it more acceptable for men to brag.

This has a major impact to your selection process, and most of you are doing nothing about it. It’s very common that if you run simple demographics for your company – ANY COMPANY – you’ll see that the percentage of your female employees does not come close to the percentage of your female leadership.

Why is that?

Article Continues Below

How to level the playing field

Here are two things you can do to help make the playing field more level in your organization:

  1. Have women interview women. Sounds a bit sexist in a way, but if you want women to get hired into leadership positions you can’t have them going up against males being interviewed by males because the males will almost always feel more comfortable with another male candidate. Reality sucks; buy a helmet.
  2. Ask specific questions regarding accomplishments and take detailed notes. Studies have found woman don’t get hired or promoted because they don’t “sell” or brag enough about their accomplishments giving their male counterparts a leg up – because the males making the hiring decisions now have “ammunition” to justify their decision to hire the male.

Let’s face it — Google is doing it, so now we all have to do it.

What would we do without best practices? (Maybe innovate and create new better practices??? … but I digress… )

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


7 Comments on “Why Women Don’t Get Promoted or Hired – and How to Level the Field

  1. I think another interesting thing to point out here is that the women “did not make it past the phone interview.”  The PHONE interview. Why is this?? I have to wonder if it has anything to do with the female voice not commanding the authority that the male voice does.

    I have been criticized time and time again – by my male peers, mind you – for my voice being “too girly.” Well, dammit, I am a girl! This cannot be a form a criticism. I have the voice I was given. My ideas, my work (for starters) are what need to be judged in an interview – not my voice. 

    I suspect men don’t come up against this “voice” problem as much as males….


    1.  Jocelyn,

      I thought that was interesting as well – the ironic thing is in my business, Recruiting, my  female recruiters actually have a better call back ratio then my male recruiters. Why is that?  I suspect their tone and manner on a message is more welcoming for a call back – but I have nothing to prove that. 


      1. Hi Tim! Are you saying your female recruiters making cold calls have a better call-back rate? If that’s that’s what you’re saying, I don’t find it ironic at all. In fact, it points to what I’m saying – that we attach these qualities to male and female voices – subconsciously or consciously – and that this can be detrimental to the process.  

        1.  JA –

          I hear you – but wouldn’t then a female voice on an interview come across better then a male voice to the potential screener?  No one wants a forceful, salesy type on the phone when interviewing (unless you’re interviewing for a forceful, salesy type).  You want confidence, intelligence and someone who sounds like they won’t eventually go postal in your office one day.

          I’ve interviewed thousands of folks over the phone – I don’t think one – male or female – necessarily interviews better.  I do think certain personalities do come across better on the phone – and that has more to do with the energy in one’s voice and how up-beat they come across about the opportunity. 

          But, if males are better at “bragging” about themselves – that also might give them a leg up on the phone during initial screening interviews.

          So there – I contradicted myself – you win!


  2. it’s a catch 22. people don’t like it when women brag about their accomplishments. when they do, they’re perceived negatively. but if they don’t brag, they don’t get the promotion. what to do???

  3. A number of women tend to raise their voices to a higher note, so to speak, as they near the end of a sentence.  Accordingly, the statement begins to sound more like a question which conveys less authority.  Be mindful of maintaining the tone of your voice at a level note as you comment.

  4. In my state women basically rule minimum wage positions. And if a man has a welding job, he gets paid $20+ an hour. If a woman had the exact same job she’d be lucky to make $14-$16.50 an hour. I’m the only daughter of 4 kids and even though i did everything “right” i’m $9,000 dollars in debt for a student loan and car loan. And I pay for everything myself. I’m only 21, and i don’t drink or smoke. Yet my brothers all have parties constantly, one basically failed his graduation year of college to play games. But my brothers are all ahead of me by a lot. I’ve been searching for new jobs since april (i was harassed at my last job, for being a woman, even though the customers adored me and i kept the place spotless…) and though i’ve applied to AT LEAST 20 places, some twice, not one called back. Nobody will hire me for over $9 an hour, but they expect me to drive 30+ miles there. I’m at the point where i want to kill myself because death would be better than this backwards world… My own boyfriend even expects me to have a job a serve him while he sits around and plays games with his friends. Men have no idea what women truly go through…

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