I came across an article published in The Guardian newspaper this week which discussed a study carried out in America in 2012, throwing up some revealing results in relation to the treatment of job applications from male and female candidates for work in the Science sector.

The premise was simple: how would two prospective candidates for a Laboratory Manager job fare when they submitted paper applications showing identical education, training and skills records, and the same salary expectations? In particular, would the fictional male candidate “John” be treated any differently from the fictional female “Jennifer”?

This is far from the first time that such a study has been carried out. Other examples include job applications made using names that indicated a particular ethnic or national origin also receiving different treatment. Indeed, Nick Evans of this Firm posted a Blog along similar lines recently.

Sadly, in the present case it may not come as a great surprise to learn that “John” fared much better than “Jennifer”, despite their identical paper applications.  In summary, “Jennifer” was ranked lower than “John”, and was offered a lower starting salary and less mentoring assistance by the relevant Faculty.

In general, most employers do their best to carry out fair recruitment exercises that remain untainted by any form of discrimination, conscious at least.  It is hard to say in the light of the survey results that there was no discrimination in the offers made, but I would put money on the assessors not accepting this, even to themselves.  Perhaps in time these largely unconscious attitudes may fade, no doubt more quickly in some industries then others, but pending that, employers should ensure that they have training and coaching courses in place for employees involved in recruitment exercises, precisely to try and avoid discriminatory decisions being made, and to limit their exposure to any subsequent litigation if they are made anyway. Albeit that it is addressing the problem from the wrong end, it may also be worth considering how duplicate applications of this sort (not uncommon) may be spotted at an early stage in the recruitment process.