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Federal law protects women and other minorities from discrimination in the work place. But the reality is it still exists. Even when you want to be a fair employer, and try not to discriminate based on gender, stereotypes and unintentional bias creep into our thought process and decisions in complex ways - ways we may not even always realize. 

recent study, published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that managers of both sexes are twice as likely to hire a man as a woman.

The study, conducted by business-school professors from Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago, asked male and female managers to recruit people to handle simple mathematical tasks. The applicants had equal skills, but managers of both genders were more likely to hire men.

MedReps.com, a job board for medical sales and pharmaceutical sales jobs on the Web, shared with Staffing Talk insights into some of the differences between men and women in the job search and hiring process.

"As we dug into the research, we were surprised to see just how much gender can affect the hiring process," says Robyn Melhuish, Communications Manager, MepReps. "From the words used in a job description, to the ways men and women represent themselves in an interview, gender can make a big difference in unseen ways.”

Some points of note include: 

  • Women are often turned off to job descriptions that list traits typically associated with men
  • When employers only had appearance to go by, both male and female recruiters are twice as likely to hire a man than a woman
  • Men typically apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications
  • Women typically apply for a job only when they see themselves as satisfying 100% of the qualifications 
  • Twice as many men fabricate references as women
  • Women who describe themselves with “feminine” terms are seen as less qualified for traditionally male-dominated fields
  • American women rank men’s leadership skills above their own and those of other women

Check out the full infographic below to see how gender can impact recruiting. 

A case of reverse gender bias 

Perceived hiring biases against women working in science, technology, engineering and math have been around as long as women have been in the workforce. 

We hear and read all the time about few women there are working in Silicon Valley, and the efforts employers are supposedly constantly making to attract more women to tech.

In academia, NPR reports that from 2008 to 2010, women received
the majority of doctorate degrees
in life and social sciences but only 32 percent of the open assistant professorships.

Now comes a study that offers some evidence that runs completely counter to that.  An experiment that included 873 faculty members across biology, engineering, economics and psychology departments at 371 universities and colleges found that given the chance, universities would rather hire women for STEM tenure-track positions.

Participants in the experiment were asked to rank the profiles of three hypothetical candidates. Two of those fake applicants were similarly qualified and differed only in gender. A third, less-qualified applicant was included to disguise the intention of the experiment.

Overall, the well-qualified woman ranked first 67% of the time. She was preferred over the similarly qualified male candidate in every field except economics, where the preference was evenly split.

"To say that these findings were unexpected ... is an understatement," says Wendy Williams of Cornell University and one of the researchers behind the study.

Even when the researchers took away participants' ability to make relative comparisons - by randomly assigning them to rate either just the man or just the woman - the female candidate scored higher.

"It's a provocative study," says Donna Ginther, professor of economics at the University of Kansas, "that doesn't replicate the real world."

To begin with, Ginther says, employers rarely, if ever, make a hiring decision based solely on an application or resume. 

She notes that a candidate who's average on paper can score high with a great interview, while a candidate with the right background on paper, can still fall short in other ways.

"Blind" auditions and female musicians

I'll leave you with another important piece of research that certainly changed the way candidates were hired in one particular industry. 

Back in the day, symphony orchestras were handpicked by the conductor. The conductor was always male, and the vast majority of the players they picked were men. 

So when orchestras wanted to create more opportunities for female musicians, they instituted “blind” auditions, which turned out to greatly improve the likelihood that female musicians would advance out of preliminary rounds, which often leads to tenured employment.

By using a screen or curtain to conceal candidates from the jury during preliminary auditions, the likelihood that a female musician would advance to the next round went up by 11%.

During the final round, “blind” auditions increased the likelihood of female musicians being selected by 30%.

In the end, “blind” auditions significantly reduced gender-biased hiring and the gender gap in symphony orchestra compositions.

How do you prevent gender bias in your workplace? Do you have a gender-neutral hiring process?  


Tags: Hiring bias, Gender, Gender-based hiring