How an email experiment between two co-workers revealed startling gender bias
- A female and her male coworker proved gender bias exists among their clients, CityNews reports. Nicole Hallberg and Martin Schneider, both Philadelphia writers, exchanged identities to test whether clients responded differently to them.
- Using Hallberg’s email account, Schneider found that clients questioned everything he asked or suggested in a sometimes condescending manner, says CityNews. One client asked if he was married. Schneider had a similar experience in 2014, when he accidently used an email account he shared with Hallberg. Schneider said one client lied to him and accused him of being unable to understand their conversation.
- While using Schneider’s email account, CityNews says Hallberg saw an increase in productivity. Before the test, she sometimes used Schneider’s name when emailing clients to get faster responses.
Even simple tests like this have consistently proven what Hallberg and other women have long known: Gender bias is alive and pervasive in 2017.
Employers might conduct similar tests or training sessions to uncover the level of gender bias in their own organizations.
The test didn’t rely on control groups or detailed data from lengthy studies. Most of the results are anecdotal or qualitative, but they’re enough to show blatant bias. In more severe cases, this kind of test could back up claims that an employer sustained a hostile environment.
Silicon Valley Bank is trying to eliminate gender bias in the recruitment process by removing names from resumes so that candidates’ genders aren't identifiable. Hallberg and Schneider proved gender bias existed by switching names, so the bank might successfully eliminate some bias in hiring decisions.