Tony Robbins is why we need AI recruiting women

by Apr 10, 2018

Tony Robbins highlighted what happens when his powerful friends are recruiting women

It’s no wonder the numbers don’t improve.  There is clearly a depressing and pressing need for AI 

Tony Robbins the U.S. based self-help guru and motivational speaker choked recently on his own multi-million Kool-Aid, at one of his massive jamborees last month. A participant, Nanine McCool (who had paid $3000 for her ticket) suggested that perhaps Robbins had not understood the #MeToo movement correctly. Robbins defended a friend who had stepped down following harassment accusations. He then went on to say that women are misusing their experiences of abuse and harassment with the #MeToo movement.  In the day of the Smart phone this was a big mistake. Huge. The result us a video doing the rounds on every social media platform globally and has resulted in a somewhat delayed apology.  

Reasons to be shocked

There are any number of reasons to be shocked. Robbins is supposed to be a life coach. Suggesting that targets of harassment are looking for “significance” when they go public and therefore making someone else “wrong,” is not part of any coaching discipline I know about. Secondly, using his size – he is nearly 2m tall, to physically intimidate a woman in a public forum, Trump/Clinton style, is a form of intimidation and even bullying. He seemed to forget his own sound bite.

A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” – Tony Robbins

@ManInTheHoody summed the situation up with this tweet:

How (some) men recruit women

But what it also highlights, is how some men go about recruiting women, because his comments are alarming. The question is – how many men exactly think and behave like this? There is clearly a pressing need to review our systems. Robbins committed firmly to the Pence view on women. That is, it is a woman who is responsible for a man’s libido and sexual conduct, not the man himself. He shared a story about a “very famous” and “very powerful” man who didn’t hire a qualified female job candidate because she was too pretty.

“He knew, ‘I can’t have her around because it’s too big of a risk.’ And he hired someone else,” Robbins said. “I’ve had a dozen men tell me this.”

Robbins coaches hundreds of leaders and if this is his philosophy and that of his peer group, then no wonder change at senior level is so slow. He was stated very openly what women already know and experience for every hiring process they go through, or don’t as the case may be. They are doomed if they do and damned of they don’t.

  • Too attractive vs not attractive enough
  • Smile too much vs don’t smile enough
  • Make-up vs no-make-up  or even too much make-up
  • Heels or not
  • Assertive or aggressive.

The list is endless.

Results can be improved with AI

Research from LinkedIn on  Global Recruiting Trends  in 2018 suggests that managing bias and discrimination with AI will be one of the major drivers this year. Gender bias is one of the major reasons women are cut from hiring processes. AI can be a useful tool to recruit women especially in the early stages of a recruitment campaign. The intention is to create a level playing field where predictive analysis will be based on hard skills and technical fit to more accurately predict success in the role. This means removing all bias triggers such as gender, race and even a person’s name.

This could include the following pieces of the process.

  • Gender neutral adverts and job profiles:  AI can identify male coded language that deters women from applying for certain vacancies. Language including seemingly innocuous words such as  “ambitious,” “leader” and “driven” are perceived to be masculine characteristics which put women off.  Substitute words are offered which research suggests encourage women, but don’t discourage men.  Programmes  such as Textio and Kat Matfield’s Gender Decoder recommend alternative vocabulary to make content more  appealing to women such as ‘meaningful’, ‘collaborative’, ‘supportive’ and ‘contribute’.”
  • Blind CVs: Anonymous CVs can be managed by Applicant Tracking Systems such as TribePad which makes bias triggering data  invisible in the early stages of a process which will support gender balanced shortlists based on candidate qualifications only.
  • Automated interviews: are considered to be the best and latest tool to review candidate suitability, where an interview records a video interview with questions appearing on a screen.  Research is also going into automated conversations with bot-led interviews. This is a process that Millennials and the Periscope generation are comfortable with and tend to will favour those who have strong on-camera communication skills. However one company Sonru advises female candidates not to wear make-up because it can be “distracting.” Knowing that bias that exists around women and make-up this only serves to cloud already muddy waters.

Human element

The reality is that human interaction can’t be taken out completely or any process when recruiting women. Human bias is often sub-conscious, but subconscious discrimination is still discrimination. Recent research from the UK suggests that AI will be used increasingly to create shortlists and interview candidates. However, only 30% of respondents believe that an algorithm will make the final selection.

The overall view is that AI will not replace human judgement on a person’s soft skills and cultural fit. As humans are inherently biased there will be no substitute for robust unconscious bias training programmes.

And that is before we go into the potential bias believed to be inherent in algorithms created by usually male developers.

To improve the recruitment of women into your organisation – contact 3Plus NOW 



Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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