Tag Archives: gender stereotypes

Gender Bias in STEM Hiring Even When it Reduces Financial Returns  

Women are under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic programs and professional roles, and some question whether this is a a result of personal preference, implicit bias, institutional barriers, or other factors,

Ernesto Reuben

Ernesto Reuben

To investigate, Columbia University’s Ernesto Reuben, Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University, and University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales developed an experimental job market.
Both male and female candidates demonstrated equal skill in performing an arithmetic task, yet both female and male “hiring managers” were twice as like to hire comparable male candidateseven when the hiring managers earned less by hiring less qualified males.
*Even when participants had a financial incentive to choose the candidate with the greatest task-relevant skills, they chose less-qualified male candidates.

Paola Sapienza

Paola Sapienza

Reuben and team also found that when candidates were asked to report their performance on the task-related achievement test, men exaggerated their performance with “honest overconfidence.”
In contrast, women generally underreported their accomplishments, found University of Wisconsin’s Sylvia Beyer.

Luigi Zingales

Luigi Zingales

This gender-based bias in hiring decisions was reduced, but not eliminated when candidates’ previous performance was provided by a third party.

Sylvia Beyer

Sylvia Beyer

Some candidates were directed to report expected future performance based on initial math task performance, then the “employer” made the hiring decision.
Other candidates provided no estimate, but Reuben’s team reported candidates’ past performance to the “hiring managers.”

In other studies, “employers” had no information on each “candidate’s” previous performance, but met each applicant in person before making a hiring decision.
After the hiring managers’ choice, candidates reported expected future performance, or Reuben’s team provided candidates’ past performance to the “hiring manager.”

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Volunteers then completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGhee, and Jordan Schwartz, to elicit unconscious stereotypes of gender, competencies, and occupations.

When the candidates reported their expected performance and the “hiring manager” chose a candidate with a lower score than other contenders, 90% of the selected but underperforming candidates were male.
As a result, “hiring managers” who selected less qualified male candidates sacrificed 5-7% of their own compensation for biased selections.

Pedro Rey-Biel

Pedro Rey-Biel

Reuben and colleagues, with Pedro Rey-Biel of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona previously demonstrated that this preference for underperforming candidates was explained by the persuasive impact of men’s significantly exaggerated statements (usually by at least 30%) about past and future performance and by scores on the Implicit Association Test.

Hyperbole is apparently effective for male candidates in job interviews when the “hiring manager” scores high on the IAT.

However, this embellishment strategy is ineffective for women, as Reuben and team demonstrated:  In another study, women were still selected 33% less than expected even when they showcased their accomplishments.
Women’s overt self-promotion may provoke “backlash” against those who behave in counter-stereotypic ways.

This research suggests the prevalence of implicit biases against hiring women to perform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) functions, and male candidates’ tendency to embellish past performance and boast about future potential accomplishments.

As a result, women are selected less frequently for roles in STEM careers, continuing their under representation in these fields.

Even if women do not exaggerate past accomplishments and future potential, this research implies that they should ensure that they communicate and reinforce the full range of skills.

“Real life” hiring managers can overcome implicit hiring biases through awareness and “proper information processing” by focusing on validated performance data, and comparing candidates of the same gender with each other..

-*What strategies have you seen mitigate the influence of implicit bias influence in hiring decisions?

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Harvard B-School Women “Lean Out” of the Workforce?

First HBS Women

First HBS Women

Women were first admitted to Harvard Business School in 1963, and 50 years later, women are not 50% of the students at HBS.
They trail at 42% for the currently-admitted class, up from the 40% at the time of this survey.

Robin Ely

Robin Ely

Robin Ely of Harvard conducted a survey of of 3,786 women and 2,655 men HBS graduates and found that more than 70% of alumnae are in the paid workforce, and 56% work full time.

Of the 10% of alumnae ages 31 to 47 who “lean out” to care for children full time, only 3% said they planned not to return to return.

HBS 50Ely argues that rather than leaning out, women are actually pushed out or pulled out of the workforce:

“…a whole set of experiences … look less like women opting out, and more like women being pushed out, by organizations that demand a 24/7 work schedule…Women are being pulled out by a culture that promulgates a compelling—some might say guilt-inducing—image of mothering that is hard to live up to while you are trying to hold a job.”

Among women working part-time, three-fourths are engaged in pro bono and volunteer efforts, suggesting that these women continue to have demanding schedules.
More than 63% of the women report regular or significant volunteer commitments, with 67% of those caring for children full-time reporting substantial volunteer activity.

HBS WomenYounger women with two or more children are less likely to be in the workforce than those with no children: 37% for parents vs 9% for the non-parents.

And among the younger cohort of Gen X’ers, 13% of women are working part-time, contrasted with 2% of Gen X men.

At the other end of the age-experience spectrum, another type of “age-approriate opting out” was reported by 43% of female graduates ages 48-66 no longer working full-time.
In contrast, only 28% of men in the same age range were not longer employed, reinforcing previous findings that men work both more hours per year and more years over their careers, leading to higher overall career earnings.

More than 84% of female respondents acknowledged “taking leaves or reducing work hours” hold back women from career advancement.

HBS RestroomThe second most-cited impediment to career advancement for women was “prioritizing family over work,” according to 82% of the female respondents.

Most alumnae reported organizational factors limit women’s advancement:

  • Lack of senior female role models
  • Inhospitable corporate cultures
  • Lack of supportive environments

Fewer than half of the women under the age of 67 report being satisfied with their professional accomplishments or opportunities for career growth.
In contrast, the majority of men agree that their work is meaningful and satisfying.

Drew Gilpin Faust

Drew Gilpin Faust

Harvard’s President Drew Gilpin Faust noted that, women are not equally represented in top leadership roles, echoing statistics showcased by HBS grad Sheryl Sandberg.
She share that women:

  • Comprise 4 percent of Fortune 500 Company CEOs
  • Lead fewer than 10 percent of America’s venture capital firms
  • Hold 26 percent of US full professorships
  • Serve in 20 percent of top US government jobs
Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Ely believes that organizations, women, and families will benefit from recruiting and hiring women who have opted out of full-time work but now want to resume their careers, because today’s graduates can expect to live nearly a century.

This change in hiring practices can increase use of top talent while reducing the substantial regret and dissatisfaction many HBS women experienced in their career trajectories.

As one highly-educated, highly-skilled women reflected on her sense of under-utilization and under-employment in a large global organization: “I don’t want to have to go home and vacuum to feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

Organizational policy can increase firms’ profitability, competitiveness, and innovation by deploying top talent across generations and genders, and this HBS study points to one source of potential talent.

-*What actions should individual women and organizations implement to increase the utilization of skilled women’s talents in the workplace?

Related Post

Women’s Post-Business School Work-Life Issues

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