I am a tech recruiter working for an American Bank in India. I deal with campus placements (as is the norm in India). My company, especially the Indian branch, has recently come under fire (and rightly so) for lacking diversity in their tech sector. We already had certain affirmative action programs, but this renewed awareness has caused the upper level management to double down on the same.
As a result of the same, we have started receiving "Recruitment Guidelines". They basically are internal memos which describe what should be expected from a batch of on campus recruits. And it contains several valid points, but one point which implicitly means that the ratio of men to women hired should be as uniform as possible. While they are not in any way binding, they should ideally be followed. We at first did not take it seriously, because this was one of the dozen memos that are dumped on us every month, but after a first few rounds of recruitment (we recruit in rounds. Starting from the best colleges and then slowly moving towards the moderate ones), we started receiving pressure from the upper management because the gender ratio was not being maintained (unfortunately, as is the case with most of our hires, the men vastly outnumbered the women), and they in turn were being pressured by hire ups for the region (APAC) and up the entire chain.
This has put us in a very tricky situation. In order to maintain the stipulated ratio requirements, we have had a sort of hiring crisis. This is especially bad because the STEM fields in India are generally lopsided in terms of number of men vs women in the field. There are two ways in which some of us have started dealing with this:
- Severely restricted the number of hires. We have started limiting the number of males we hire to the number of suitable female candidates. This is causing us to lose out on some serious talent.
- Lower the bar in order to match the number of female candidates to male candidates. This may cause a dilution in the quality of the candidates coming in.
I believe that such a practice is not sustainable and to my end I have already written to senior management about my concerns and have suggested replacing the current practice with the following:
- Organize "Women Only" placement seminars in order to help women better understand our requirements and prepare accordingly.
- Conduct blind coding rounds in order to shortlist candidates, to weed out any recruiter bias and shore up diversity.
The response I received was lukewarm and it is unlikely that my suggestions are being taken seriously. But I still do feel responsible for the quality and quantity(yes it matters too) of candidates I am recruiting from colleges. So, my questions are:
- Is this cause worth haggling over? Or should I just consider it to be an order given by my boss and follow the same?
- If it is worth haggling over, how else can I make my concerns known to the decision makers higher up?
- Is there a way in which I can implement the current guidelines without harming the talent pool?
- Or should I just consider it to be "Not my burden to bear" and blindly go ahead with implementing the same?
Also, if it matters, I am a senior male recruiter with about 6 years of experience in managing campus recruitment.
EDIT: Clarifications as asked for in the comments:
- Yes, the number of applicants itself is lopsided. Men outnumber women 3:1. E.g: For every 10 female applicants, there are 30 male applicants.
- As mentioned, the memo is a set of guidelines. They are not legally binding. But I have been receiving heat for not following them and will affect my appraisals.
I call the affirmative action as being too broad because it fails to take into account the lopsided ratio/number of the pool of eligible candidates which in itself is perpetuated by the fact that the number of men studying in STEM fields in India vastly outnumbers the number of women. I understand that a lot of this must be caused by the imposition of gender stereotypes on young girls, but there is little that I as a recruiter can do to fix the ratio of men to women studying in STEM fields. To my knowledge, other affirmative actions like Reservation in India are very much dictated by the demographics and hence are sustainable.
People are suggesting that I get more women to apply. Like I said earlier, I deal with campus recruitments, hence my pool of possible candidates is limited to the students studying in the particular university that I am visiting. That limits the number of women who apply, as the number of women studying in STEM coursers itself is minute compared to the number of men. There are other college neutral hiring pipelines, like online coding competitions and hackathons, but I do not handle those.