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FIOH publishes recruitment anti-discrimination guide

Immigrant women in Finland, in particular, are not being employed according to their education and skills, one expert said.

Recruitment bias can often be a barrier to securing employment in Finland, or even being invited for an interview. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) has published a 10-point guide (siirryt toiseen palveluun) for companies aimed at promoting diversity in recruitment in Finland.

The recommendations include careful preparation of a job posting, the use of varied channels and networks, and introducing anonymous recruitment practices.

Previous research studies have found that a foreign-sounding name can often be a barrier to securing employment, or even being called to a job interview.

"Recruiters often underestimate how much their own prejudices and stereotypes influence their assessment of the job seeker," the institute’s expert Barbara Bergbom said. "Therefore, we hope that practices promoting diversity will become more common in recruitment."

Benefits of workplace diversity

The institute said that research has found there are many benefits to a more diverse workplace, including increased innovation and creativity, higher profitability, and improved employee satisfaction.

Workplace diversity refers to how employees differ in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family situation, disability, language, religion, beliefs, and educational background.

However, discrimination in recruitment still occurs, Bergbom said, adding that in most cases it is unintentional and unconscious.

As an example, Bergbom cited research which found that familiar facial features or the same letters in a name may make a recruiter look more favourably on an applicant. People who share similar traits with the recruiter are more often invited for an interview, she added.

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Barbara Bergbom of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

On the other hand, recruiters that are unaware of their own prejudices--and the part they play in their decision-making process--are more likely to make discriminatory decisions.

"Those who believe that gender discrimination, for example, does not exist in the labour market make more gender-discriminatory decisions," Bergbom added.

"Unnecessary prejudices" against immigrant women

As a further example, Begbom cites the case of immigrant women in the labour market in Finland. There are a lot of unnecessary prejudices about their level of education, she said.

"Contrary to popular belief, there are very highly educated immigrants in Finland, and if we look at women who have moved to the country, there are many highly educated among them. According to some statistics, even more so than among women born in Finland," Bergbom said.

However, the employment rate of immigrant women in Finland is even lower than that of immigrant men. They also tend to work in more unskilled or low-skilled roles.

Earlier this week, business think tank Eva published a report which stated that the low employment rate of immigrant women is a problem that has far-reaching negative effects on society as a whole.

The low employment level of immigrant women weakens their integration into society and stresses public finances. It can also have a knock-on effect on their children’s professional careers, the report said.

"We are currently losing a huge amount of valuable knowledge potential. Immigrant women are not being employed according to their education and skills," Bergbom said.

Society, employers losing out

Finland's oldest recruitment company, Eilakaisla, said it has made diversity one of its key goals as it seeks to eradicate discriminatory practices.

"Discrimination occurs both consciously and unconsciously. If a large proportion of employees and jobseekers are ignored in recruitment and are unemployed, then it is a loss for both society and companies," Eilakaisla’s Growth Marketing Manager Petra Tiirikainen told Yle.

Tiirikainen added that the company and their clients have also noticed that biases and prejudices are not always recognised.

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Recrruitment company Eilakaisla’s Growth Marketing Manager Petra Tiirikainen. Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

"It is therefore important that recruitment is carried out professionally and that there is awareness of the unconscious bias that is constantly taking place. Often prejudices and biases are heavily influencing the background to decisions," Tiirikainen added.

In order to increase diversity, Eilakaisla has created an anonymous recruitment tool.

"Our 'Expert Gallery' equalises all applications, so that no identifying information about any of the applicants is visible to clients at the stage when they are looking for suitable professionals for their needs. The search function is available only on the basis of competence, salary level and location,” Tiirikainen said.

Last year, the City of Helsinki ran an anonymous recruitment pilot project, eliminating names, gender and age from application documents seen by HR before deciding on sending out invitations to job interviews. City officials announced in December that the pilot was such a success it was set to continue into this year.