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    Private Sector Employment: Do Gatekeepers Indeed Believe in Equal Opportunities?

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    Private Sector Employment: Do Gatekeepers Indeed Believe in Equal Opportunities?

    As if it is a comment on the times we live in, the fictitious Hindu woman job applicant named Priyanka Sharma received 208 positive responses from the 1,000 jobs she applied for. The other fictitious Muslim woman job applicant received only 103 responses to the very same 1,000 jobs she applied for.

    The worst-kept secret of private sector hiring is now officially out. The results of a research undertaken by a Noida-based organisation, LedBy Foundation suggests that getting a response from human resource departments is very likely a factor of an applicant’s religion.

    The research took an experimental approach as two dummy profiles, both detailing identical qualifications, were created to match the market standard for entry-level roles in India. The only variable was the names; Habiba Ali for the Muslim profile and Priyanka Sharma for the Hindu. The Curriculum Vitae were identical and the two fictitious applicants applied for the same positions through job search websites and the internet-based professional network, LinkedIn.

    The roles applied for look like content writer, business development analyst, and social media marketing specialist across industries.

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    2,000 job applications were sent through 1,000 job postings on job search sites over a period of 10 months and the research team collected and used the responses to ascertain a net discrimination rate.

    As if it is a comment on the times we live in, the fictitious Hindu woman job applicant named Priyanka Sharma received 208 positive responses from the 1,000 jobs she applied for. In the meanwhile, the other fictitious Muslim woman job applicant received only 103 responses to the very same 1,000 jobs she applied for.

    The study complements a previous study by researchers that concludes that Muslim men, on average, were less likely to get call-backs than Dalit Hindu men (Attewell and Thorat).

    Net discrimination rate

    The research team came up with a formula to calculate a net discrimination rate, which, according to the study, was 47.1 per cent, as the Hindu woman received 208 positive responses, while the Muslim woman received half of that (103). This was evident across industries.

    “The net discrimination rate gives a measure of the disparity between the number of positive responses extended to Priyanka relative to Habiba, displaying the percentage of cases where Priyanka saw an advantage over Habiba,” say the researchers.

    They further add that recruiters were also more cordial to the Hindu candidate – 41.3 per cent of the recruiters had connected with Priyanka over phone calls, while only 12.6 per cent spoke with Habiba over a call.

    Remarkably, at 40 per cent, North India had a lower discrimination rate compared to jobs located in West (59 per cent) and South India (60 per cent).

    While hiring discrimination is illegal and often against the belief systems that companies espouse, many believe that the disparities between communities in the workforce is the consequence of a lack of academic ability or experience rather than discrimination within the hiring process.

    “This more subtle but pernicious form of discrimination becomes challenging to measure and prove,” say the researchers, explaining that the study aimed to compare the response elicited by two identically qualified candidates, with the only variable in question being their religious background, to see if opportunities are symmetrically accessible to Hindu women and Muslim women.

    “Our goal was to ascertain a net discrimination rate to compare the responses given to Hindu and Muslim women in India,” they say, adding that the net discrimination rate provides a percentage to illustrate the cases where only the majority of group member has been invited for a job interview.

    Discrimination within hiring process

    The research illustrates that discrimination within the hiring process is a contributing factor to such a stark disparity in labour market participation. Equal access is vital to the social and financial equality that professional women seek. To this end, tackling biases in the hiring process is one of the most important mechanisms to level the playing field.

    The LedBy research team says that further analysis hint at differing levels of enthusiasm for both candidates. ‘Habiba’ received only a rare follow-up call, whereas a large proportion of Priyanka’s responses were in form of call-backs. Similarly, ‘Habiba’ got only one positive response from recruiters coming upon her profile, whereas ‘Priyanka’ received 15 such responses.

    “This displays the difference in proactivity that recruiters have when they approach the two profiles, with Priyanka being recruited with far more enthusiasm,” the study says.

    Over the course of the research, the researchers applied to 90 industries and saw a disparity in the call-back rates across industries. The researchers had applied with the dummy CVs to Information Technology and Services and Marketing and Advertising industries. The difference between the call-back rates was 11.4 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively.

    The study paper does not name the industries the dummy Curriculum Vitaes were sent to.

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