Sometimes having the right skills isn’t everything. You also have to be the right gender.
New research indicates there’s a hard-wired bias against hiring women for positions that require a knowledge of mathematics, despite their ability to perform just as well as men with numbers. A team of academics published the findings of the research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The researchers designed a test in which male and female job candidates were asked to perform math functions that both sexes handle comparably. Following the one-on-one interview and the math test, both male and female hiring personnel hired men twice as often as they hired women — despite similar outcomes on the math tests.
The researchers then changed up the game a bit, according to their paper. They told the hiring managers about the past performance history of the male and female candidates, which should have led to a bias in favor of hiring women, who would have been more qualified based upon the new information.
Still, both male and female hiring managers were one and a half times more likely to hire a man than a woman.
In part, the researchers said, the bias can be traced to the interviews. There, women tend to be self-effacing about their abilities, while men brag.
“If ability is self-reported, women still are discriminated against, because employers do not fully account for men’s tendency to boast about performance,” they wrote. “Providing full information about candidates’ past performance reduces discrimination but does not eliminate it. We show that implicit stereotypes ... predict not only the initial bias in beliefs but also the suboptimal updating of gender-related expectations when performance-related information comes from the subjects themselves.
“Employers biased against women are less likely to take into account the fact that men, on average, boast more than women about their future performance, leading to suboptimal hiring choices that remain biased in favor of men.”