Enav Friedman and Dorit Efrat-Treister
While many organizations seek equity in their hiring decisions, our recent research in Gender and Society has made it clear that we are not yet in an era where there is no gender bias in STEM hiring.
We investigated bias in employment criteria, unfair prejudice in favor of men, usually in a way that is considered unfair to women.
We asked STEM leaders to tell us their most important hiring criteria. We then used these criteria in an experiment to compare how managers evaluate the CVs of male and female candidates. We created identical resumes except for the gender of the applicant. We’ve also revolutionized STEM fields, including biopharmaceuticals and biorobotics. Each supervisor received a resume for evaluation: a female biopharma resume and a male biorobotics resume, or vice versa. Each resume listed equivalent academic background and equivalent accomplishments, including some interpersonal management and experience. We asked managers to rate candidates on a variety of criteria, including candidates’ ability to work long hours, problem-solving ability, and candidates’ likelihood of being hired.
We expected female managers not to show a clear preference for men, but instead to show a bias towards female candidates, which was established by emphasizing the criterion under which female managers are less likely. We hypothesized that the 24/7 STEM norm combined with the perception that women cannot work as long as men would lead male managers to prefer men.
We also expected female managers to rate a criterion other than long hours because they would be more aware that women may be less inclined to work long hours. This would give women a fairer opportunity to enter STEM.
As expected, we found that “ability to work long hours” was a more important criterion for male STEM managers than for female managers in hiring decisions. For female managers, “problem-solving ability” was a more important criterion than for male managers when considering a female candidate.
These findings suggest that the gender favorability of male managers has shifted to a implied bias due to the subtle use of recruitment criteria to favor male candidates.
We wanted to find a way to solve this problem, so we ran another experiment where we added a personal note to the CV saying that the candidate had hired a full-time nanny and was committed to her career. This personal note reduced the importance that managers placed on the criterion “ability to work long hours” in the hiring decision of a female candidate, but increased the importance of female managers on this criterion. Since men are the dominant decision makers in STEM hiring, a personal note can be an effective strategy to reduce implicit gender bias.
We suggest that organizations can reduce perceived gender bias by supporting employees with additional pay to offset childcare costs, similar to travel costs. Such support will show both mothers and fathers that women are not considered solely responsible for children and the home. Another more radical recommendation is to change the organizational culture that reinforces the belief that being an ideal employee requires the ability to work 24/7.
Until organizations directly address this type of implicit bias, we advise women to add a personal note to their resume explaining their childcare arrangements and reassuring the employer that they are fully committed to their career. Of course, adding this personal note is not the best strategy for social change. Far more important is reducing implicit bias by exposing employers who create gender inequality. Did we mention that women are trapped? In an ideal world, we would not suggest that women solve this problem themselves, but we would suggest that male-led organizations address the root of the social problem and change the organizational culture to help recruit more women. STEM fields.
Enav Friedmann is an Associate Professor at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management at Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel and head of the BGU Marketing Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from BGU and was a visiting scholar at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy. Her current research includes brand attitudes and purchase choices, targeting different consumer segments, especially gender-based marketing and social marketing.
Dorit Efrat-Treister is a senior lecturer at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She received her doctorate in organizational behavior from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, and went on to do postdoctoral work at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
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