How Gender is Hurting the Job Market

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4 months ago by Sophie Stones

How Gender is Hurting the Job Market

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When we are trying to fill a role, we will look for the most capable candidate, however despite companies “affirmative action plans” and desire for equally matched teams, it turns out we are actually screening ourselves for the job before we’ve even applied.

Technische Universitat Munchen, conducted a study in 2013 that found, when words which the subjects claimed to associate with dominance, such as “assertive” and “analytical” were used, women were less like to apply for the role. Similarly, when roles have a higher rate of women within them, men are less likely to apply.

When the fastest growing jobs are mostly female and the fastest declining roles are in male-dominated fields, this is becoming more of a problem each day.

Law professor, Joan Williams, puts this down to a ‘cultural lag’ where “our views of masculinity have not caught up to the changes in the job market”. A difference in gender balance can be seen as due to the lower pay and lower status that ‘feminine’ jobs hold. In fact, studies by Cornell University show that when women enter male-dominated fields, the pay actually declines and respect for the field drops. When women began working in parks in the 1950’s, the median hourly wage dropped by 57 percentage points and the role of school teacher, went from a respected profession to a role that inspired “if you can’t do, teach”.

In the opposite rein to this, when men enter female-dominated fields, they are actually paid more and promoted faster, in a phenomenon known as the “glass elevator”.

There are those who are trying to counteract this variance in male and female employment. The American Assembly for Men in Nursing recently launched a campaign that compared nursing to mountain climbing, playing on the “adrenaline rush”, that nursing staff can feel on a daily basis. However despite their efforts, the campaign is still gendered in a way that is almost counterproductive.

As well as a problem with gender boundaries, our approach to time-wasting when applying for jobs, can stop us in our tracks before an employer even holds our CV in their hands. A study by Hewlett Packard found that men would apply for a role if they were 60% qualified according to the job posting, whereas women would only consider it if they hit 100% of the guidelines set on a job advertisement. With the report stating that a habit of following the guidelines was the main barrier women had put up for themselves and that men’s confidence could be dented when their rejection rate is higher.  

What’s more despite women overtaking men in the likelihood of completing a PHD, they are less likely to end up in a high-paid role, instead ending up in lower paid fields.

This doesn’t all come down to individual preference though, as the search site Google was found to have a secret sexist side in research done by Carnegie Mellon. The experiment showed Google displaying a career service for $200k+, over 1852 times to the male group and only 318 times to the female group.

Gender roles and the restrictions we place on them get less significant with each generation and so maybe in the future it will be something the job market can stop panicking about. However for now, as Professor Claudia Peus, the chair of research and science management at TUM says “a carefully formulated job posting is essential to get the best choice of personnel”.