Playing up "manly" side may help women enter male-dominated fields

  • August 07, 2014
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Playing up


Women applying for a job in male-dominated fields should consider playing up their masculine qualities, indicates new research by Michigan State University scholars.

In a laboratory experiment, women who described themselves using “masculine”-like traits (assertive, independent, achievement oriented) were evaluated as more fitting for the job than those who emphasized female-like traits (warmth, supportiveness, nurturing).

“We found that ‘manning up' seemed to be an effective strategy, because it was seen as necessary for the job,” said Ann Marie Ryan, co-author and psychologist. The project is part of a series of studies on bias in hiring.

The findings refute the idea that women who emphasize counter-stereotypical traits might face a backlash for not conforming to expected gender roles, the researchers added. When hiring for a leadership position in a male-dominated field such as engineering, Ryan said, decision makers appear to be looking for take-charge candidates regardless of gender. Science is another field where men outnumber women.

The study appears online in the research journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.

Ryan is working with current and former doctoral students on a raft of research looking at the discrimination that certain groups face in the job hunt – and, importantly, what people might do to counter it.

Because there's ample evidence hiring discrimination exists for women, minorities, older workers and others, Ryan said it's time to start focusing on why discrimination occurs – and what a job seeker might do to combat it. She is conducting related research on groups ranging from ethnic minorities to military veterans to people with disabilities.

Another of her studies, to appear in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, surveyed unemployed job seekers of all ages under the theory that older people perceive more discrimination and make an effort to downplay their age during interviews. The theory proved correct, Ryan and colleagues said, but surprisingly younger workers also avoided discussing their age, apparently so they wouldn't be seen as too inexperienced.

Ultimately, Ryan said, it's not job seekers' responsibility to ensure their own equal treatment. But she hopes to help candidates find better outcomes in a culture plagued by “pervasive and persistent” discrimination. Often, that discrimination starts during the résumé-screening process, before a candidate even makes it to the job interview.

“Companies and recruiters should make sure they are not exhibiting discriminatory screening practices,” Ryan said. “There's a lot of advice out there for applicants to help combat this type of bias, but our research is aimed at figuring out what kind of advice is beneficial and what kind of advice may harm you.”

Source : www.world-science.net

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