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Three concrete ways to combat employment discrimination

  • 30.03.2018

Because of their origins, sex, beliefs, disability, health status, or physical appearance, many candidates today may fall victim to employment discrimination or stereotyping in the workplace. For example, did you know that even with equal skills, the name and origin of a candidate can impact the chances that a CV gets moved on to an interview by a factor of four? However, various solutions are in place to help companies quantify their recruiting practices and ensure that they base their decisions solely on professional criteria. Let’s learn about them.

From submitting a resume to landing an interview—an obstacle course for some candidates? 

In the European Union, as in the United States and elsewhere, employment discrimination based on gender is prohibited by law. In France, for example, the law prohibits disadvantaging a person on the basis of one of 24 discrimination criteria, including sexual orientation, family name and place of residence.

But employment discrimination remains a reality for many candidates. During the process for selecting candidates and conducting interviews, bias can rear its ugly head: assumed incapacity to integrate into the team, "natural" ineptitude to exercise certain trades, physical appearance, etc. There are very many stereotypes that penalize these job seekers, even though they have all the skills required for the job.

One solution involves professionalizing the company’s recruiting process through three priority areas:

  • training recruiters in non-discrimination ;
  • quantifying the criteria that go into hiring decisions ;
  • auditing the company’s own recruiting practices

Raising awareness among managers

If we are to combat every form of employment discrimination, we first need to change the way we see each other. The goal is to go beyond stereotypes and focus solely on the professional skills of each candidate.

That notably means raising awareness among employees at the company, particularly among employment staff. The 2017 equal employment and citizenship law also required all companies with more than 300 employees to organize nondiscrimination training for recruiting managers. This training must be renewed every five years.

In this context, BNP Paribas regularly trains  its recruiting staff in nondiscrimination and combatting stereotypes and prejudice, through e-learning modules and in-person workshops. In this way, operational recruiting managers receive dedicated training on topics like diversity management and professionalizing job interviews. 

Quantifying recruiting practices 

The BNP Paribas Group has implemented several strict measures to professionalize its employment processes. 

For example, resumes are sorted on the sole basis of education and skills: the recruiting manager does not consider the gender, age, nationality or geographical location of candidates. 

The Group also practices “structured interviews”, during which the recruiting manager, whether from HR or operations, can choose from among several questions to ask a candidate based on the behavioral skills required for the job. These questions are neutral, identical for all candidates and aim solely to evaluate their objective ability to do the job in question, while eliminating any possibility of misinterpretation. These questions pertain exclusively to the job offered and do not mention the candidate’s gender, origin or individual characteristics. Any personal questions are strictly regulated and are asked only to determine the candidate’s acquisition of a skill required for the job (teamwork, interpersonal, organization, etc.). 

resumes are sorted on the sole basis of education and skills: the recruiting manager does not consider the gender, age, nationality or geographical location of candidates.

Auditing rejected applications

For exemple, every quarter since 2015, Claire Gooding, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at BNP Paribas Fortis in Belgium, performs an anti-discrimination audit of the subsidiary’s recruiting operations: “Every time we pass on a resume it must be for objective reasons. I carefully examine 40 applications selected at random. It’s simple and efficient!” she says in a tweet.

Every time we pass on a resume it must be for objective reasons. I carefully examine 40 applications selected at random. It’s simple and efficient!

In concrete terms, for every step in the selection process—sorting resumes, HR interviews and operational interviews—BNP Paribas Fortis picks a random selection of applications that didn’t make the cut. The goal is to analyze the reasons for rejection and make sure the decision was made on the sole basis of professional criteria. Insufficient education or experience, behavioral or technical skills not in line with the job: every decision must be clearly stated and justified.

Every entity at the Group carries out the same type of audit as the Belgian subsidiary. At BNP Paribas in France, these self-assessments focus on:

  • analyzing all the interview summaries by searching for discriminatory key words (including “woman”, “age”, “origin”, etc.); 
  • examining written job postings to ensure that they contain no discriminatory criteria.

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