How Google Predicts Success and Gender Inequality

June 13, 2016

12:40 pm

Gender inequality, a pervasive problem throughout the tech industry, finds itself manifesting in a variety of ways. For Google, the issue of gender inequality comes through with the issues of stereotypes of how men and women are affected by success. On this week’s NPR Hidden Brain podcast, guest Laszlo Bock – the Senior Vice President of People Operations, noted that Google may be done with the notorious interview questions of the past – but new ones that remain could illuminate to how stereotypes of gender affect success.

How Gender Inequality Persists

In the NPR interview, Bock shares one question in particular that raises the question of what is to come from the questions staying aboard – “On a scale of one to five, rate yourself as a software engineer”. At first glance, it may not seem as such a blatant means of continuing limiting stereotypes that hinder equality in the workplace. But it’s the undertones of the question that really leads to this conclusion – as explored in NYMag:

“Bock’s team has identified some intriguing correlations in a job candidate’s answer and their eventual success at the company — but, crucially, there is a gender difference here. For a guy, the ‘correct’ answer — that is, the ‘most predictive of success,’ as Bock phrases it — is four. ‘And our hypothesis is, that’s because men tend to overestimate their capabilities, on average, [and] men tend to be less self-aware, on average, as [compared to] women,’ Bock said. ‘And for a man to say four was a signal — not the only one, but a signal — that this guy’s a little more self-aware, maybe he realizes he has something to learn, and that was positively correlated with success here.’”

From Bock’s explanation, it would appear that female applicants are being held to a higher standard than their male counterparts. Of course, this kind of unconscious bias still remains through much of the industry, even as we work to combat more blatant forms of bias and prejudice. And it’s not just Google doing this – many tech companies face an unconscious bias when it comes to hiring and gender inequality in their workspaces.

Combating Unconscious Hiring Bias

Whether we admit it or not, unconscious bias has permeated through much of how we work and operate in tech. Understanding how they exist, and how to rework them will be a moving in the right direction when it comes to truly overcoming them.

(H/T NY Mag)

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Cameron is a tech and culture journalist, comic book enthusiast, and lives near New York City. A graduate of Stockton University, she's using her words to shift the world of online journalism, one byline at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found reading sci-fi novels, collecting succulents, and planning her next obnoxious hair color. Cameron is an editorial fellow at Tech.Co. Send your tips to or tweet @BlkGirlManifest.

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