Unconscious Bias in Recruitment

Summary of the unconscious bias in recruitment event held by the Women in Aerospace UK local group.

The unconscious mind allows the brain to process much more information than our conscious mind by using shortcuts to make almost instantaneous decisions and judgements about the world around us. The problem with the unconscious mind however is that it is often wrong, it is shaped by our background, personal experiences and cultural environment which often leads us to pass incorrect judgement on people.  

On the 16th August the Women in Aerospace UK local group hosted an event on unconscious bias in recruitment at the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell. The event looked at the issues that arise from unconscious bias in the recruitment process and how to tackle this.

The first talk was given by Belinda Elliott from Bluestream Recruitment, who gave advice on how to write a good CV and how to successfully prepare for an interview such as tailoring your CV for the job you are applying for and preparing questions that you can ask the interviewer about the job or company.

We then heard from Florence Simon and David Masters of Thales Alenia Space who shared their experience with unconscious bias from the perspective of employers, discussing the need to take a step back and think about what is important during the recruitment process rather than making snap judgements on candidates and challenging inbuilt stereotypical perceptions of people when recruiting. The importance of recruiting a diverse workforce was emphasised making the point that companies should be interested in recruiting a diverse workforce not because it is ‘nice’ or to fill a quota but because it has been proven that diversity improves business performances.

Florence went on to say that

‘Managers write their Christmas list for job adverts but they don’t believe in Father Christmas anymore so don’t be put off if you don’t meet all the points’

reiterating a point made earlier by Belinda that if you have 70% of the skills required for a job you should apply.

The final talk came from Clare McNamara from Move Ahead Global, discussing how to recruit more women, she brought up some interesting things to be aware of such as gender coded job descriptions that have the potential to put off female talent.

Unconscious bias will always be present in recruitment with reports that even artificial intelligence can show signs of unconscious bias due to the unconscious biases ingrained in those writing the code. However, the more that we are aware of the impact of unconscious bias the better equipped we are to deal with it and create a more diverse workforce that can tackle the diverse range of problems in the space industry.

If you are interested in diversity within the space industry SpaceCareers.uk and the Royal Astronomical Society are holding a one day Diversity In Space Careers (DISC) conference in London in October. 

More information for this event can be found here.


Emma Collier

Emma studies Physics with Astronomy at the University of Southampton.

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