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Orchestrating Equity: A brief history into Blind Hiring

At FairHire, we consider blind hiring to be an important aspect of the future of recruitment and talent acquisition. However, at times, it is equally interesting to venture into the past and look briefly at the history of blind hiring and the fascinating results it delivered then, as they do today.

The Dissonance of Discrimination

Our story begins in 1952, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which pioneered the practice of blind auditions. Musicians would perform behind screens, walking on carpeted floors to prevent judges from discerning the sex of the auditionee from the sound of footsteps. More generally, it prevented conductors from selecting candidates, in a biased manner - similar to today’s use of anonymous recruiting.

Yet, it was only until the 1970s, following a notable discrimination lawsuit against the New York Philharmonic (1969), that blind hiring in music was popularised by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). At the time, the top five orchestras in America had fewer than 5% women, only increasing up to 10%, by 1980. Likewise, the TSO had been predominantly made up of white males. However, after adopting ‘blind hiring’ techniques, the TSO saw an increase of women being admitted from 25% to 46%.

Further Results and Analysis

It is clear that these blind auditions have a strong positive impact on improving diversity and inclusion. However, it is interesting to ask to what extent these actions were the direct cause. In the years after, two economists Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse looked into this question. They went across the US, observing different practices and collecting data and results.

In 2000, Goldin and Rouse published their results. And though they admit that their datasets were noisy, they were also able to conclude that blind screening and improve the probability that women move from preliminary rounds by 50% as well as the odds that women were selected overall by several-fold

While blind hiring has only lately been implemented in industries such as technology or law (see Google’s or Clifford Chance’s adoption), we have seen the use of blind hiring is by no means a recent phenomenon. Now is the time for the instruments of recruitment to be tuned for blind-hiring.

Contributors: Cameron Tan
Image credit: Ioana Sasu from Pixabay

26th June 2020

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