Designing Gender Equity: Evidence from Hiring Practices and Committees

This paper analyzes how different screening practices affect gender equity in hiring. I transform tens of millions of high-dimensional, unstructured records from Brazil’s public sector into selection processes with detailed information on candidates, evaluators, screening tools, and scores. Exploiting a federal policy reform that required the use of more impartial hiring practices, I find that increasing screening impartiality improves women’s evaluation scores, application rates, and probability of being hired. To better understand which design choices reduce gender disparities, I leverage variation in how different hiring processes complied with greater impartiality. I find that the most effective changes to increase women’s hiring odds involve i) adding blind written tests to a hiring process that already uses subjective methods, such as interviews, or ii) converting subjective rounds into only blind written tests. However, when employers remove subjective stages, gender hiring gaps remain unchanged. Finally, more gender-balanced hiring committees induce male evaluators to become more favorable toward female candidates in subjective stages. To interpret these results, I develop a model of hiring in which evaluator bias, tool bias, and screening precision jointly determine relative hiring outcomes by gender. In light of my findings, the model suggests that both evaluator bias and lower screening precision disadvantage female applicants. Screening changes that limit discretion in existing hiring practices or add new impartial screening tools reduce the gender hiring gap, while policies that eliminate subjective screening tools are ineffective because the loss of screening precision outweighs the reduction in evaluator bias.