Despite a significant change in both legislation and culture in western society, it seems we are still some way from having truly equal opportunities in the workplace. For instance, I’ve written a bit recently about the discrimination facing gay and lesbian people in the job market, with both their likely earnings lower than hetrosexual workers and their chances of landing a job in the first place lower too.
See Also: Gay and Lesbian Job Seekers Still Face Discrimination
The trials of women trying to enter science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) based careers is also well documented, with particular challenges facing women trying to break into Silicon Valley.
Of course, the picture is not totally bleak, with suggestions that some professions appear to positively discriminate against men, particularly if those professions require stereotypically feminine traits. Is leadership one such profession? A recent study would suggest not.
The paper reveals that recruiters appear to favour male candidates than their female peers when it comes to leadership positions. It reveals that even if a woman has proven leadership skills, with a track record to match, they are still overlooked by male candidates who merely have high potential leadership skills.
The findings, from the University of Kent, were presented at the recent British Psychological Society Annual Conference, which was held in Liverpool.
Participants in the study were placed inside a virtual hiring simulation scenario. Each of them was shown four possible candidates for a recently advertised leadership position, with each candidate being roughly the same age. Each candidate was largely identical, with the primary differences being their gender and how both their leadership potential and track record was documented in their CVs.
The ’recruiters’ were asked to evaluate each candidate in terms of both how successful they believed they would be in their role at the fictional organisation, and also how impressive they thought their CV was.
People Want Male Leaders
The results revealed that the candidates that the fictional recruiters seemed to favour were overwhelmingly the male applicants whose CV reflected a high degree of leadership potential. These candidates were regarded as both most likely to succeed in their role, and also as having the highest quality CV.
Interestingly, it emerged that the male candidates with high potential were even rated more highly than their male peers with a proven leadership track record. Both however, were rated more highly than the female candidates, with no apparent difference between female candidates with either a track record or merely high potential.
"The findings have implications for gender equality in the workplace and provide initial evidence that women’s leadership potential is not recognised by potential employers. This is a significant barrier to career progression and success for women," the authors say.
Now, it should go without saying that this is but one study, and the sample was not an enormous one, so it would be dangerous to read too much into the findings. However, it does nevertheless reinforce the potential risk of stereotyping, even of the subtle and subconscious kind, can have in the recruitment process.
Do you think that this study is a fair representative of the majority of the world? Or do you think that it is far to small to be of any use? Yout thoughts and comments below please...