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Imagine two identical resumes. Same work experience, same education, same age. But one of the applicants is apparently a woman, while the other has a man’s name. Which one has a better chance of finding a job?
This type of experiment has been quite popular since the seventies of the last century. It is relatively simple to perform. And it elegantly filters out almost all the objections that people usually try to prove that it “wasn’t discrimination” after all.
When you are talking to two applicants in person, you may prefer the male over the female for many different reasons that cannot be considered discrimination. You could also prefer a woman, also for reasons that you may not be able to fully describe yourself: intuition, better impression, fits better into the vision of the future team, etc.
But you don’t see any of that in a paper CV. They are two identical documents, only one of them is written Jan and the other Jana. So if the male variant gets more answers, we can take it as a clear sign of discrimination.
A meta-study was published this month that summarizes 44 years of these experiments. A meta-study is usually considered by researchers to be a type of work with high explanatory value. If done correctly, it should combine the significance of the results of the included studies and thereby reduce uncertainty or eliminate various anomalies.
This meta-study, in which scientists from Asia, the USA, New Zealand and Europe participated, included a total of 85 studies and over 361 thousand specific individual measurements. As a result, it confirmed a well-known phenomenon, namely that men had an advantage over women in finding work for a significant part of the measured period.
However, since it is a long-term meta-analysis, it could also have recorded changes in the situation. And here an important – and apparently unexpected for many – trend emerged: Around 2009, the situation practically straightened out.
You could even say that now men are slightly (but really only slightly) discriminated against. This shouldn’t be all that surprising, the researchers write: “There are both theoretical and empirical reasons to expect that discrimination against women in particular is less widespread now than in the past.”
How to scientifically research controversial topics?
“Persistent gender discrimination is one of the most controversial topics in the social sciences,” the study’s authors state. “Therefore, there are concerns about possible ideological burden on the researchers.” To avoid this suspicion, they have included several classical and innovative techniques in their research process, which ensure the highest possible objectivity of the research.
The fact that discrimination against women is practically unmeasurable at this stage of job application after 2010 does not mean that discrimination does not still occur in specific companies, fields or countries. After all, we can see in the above graph that there are still a number of “wheels” well above the value 1. In the same way, discrimination against men occurs in other contexts (wheels below the value 1).
Women continue to be discriminated against, but it is harder to measure
The fact that women are no longer discriminated against in the first phase of the interview – the response to the submitted resume – is good news, but it does not in itself mean that discrimination has been eliminated. In their study, the authors directly warn against this interpretation: “We certainly do not want anyone to interpret this meta-analysis as evidence that equal treatment of women has been achieved. (…) And it certainly does not mean that all industries and organizations are free of prejudice.”
“This study only concerns the first stage of the admission process, i.e. the invitation to an interview,” emphasizes Klára Kalíšková, an economist working at FIS VŠE in Prague and at the IDEA think tank at CERGE-EI. She reminded that in the Czech Republic we also have a measurement from 2015, which showed that at this stage there is no discrimination against women in our country, not even during the maternity period.
“But that certainly does not prove that we do not have gender discrimination in the labor market in the Czech Republic. The fact that women are invited to interviews at the same, or in some cases more often, does not mean that they get the job more often, that they are paid as well as a man in the same position, or that they have the same chance for career advancement. supplies.
However, these other types of discrimination are more difficult to measure. Creating two virtually identical resumes is easy. But it is practically impossible to create two candidates who are comparable in all respects, for example in the selection process for a leading position within the company.
Even the authors of the meta-analysis admit this: “Differences between men and women may persist in advancement to leadership positions, job rewards, career advancement, career pauses for parenthood, or how often they are affected by workplace harassment.”
What can be investigated is the different remuneration offered by the same employer for the same work. “In the Czech Republic, we have one of the highest levels of inequality in the remuneration of women and men for the same job position and in the same workplace,” reminds Kalíšková. “While in the countries of Western Europe the difference in remuneration between women and men for the same job position is around 5% at most, in the Czech Republic women are paid on average 11% less than men for the same work at the same employer.”
Nevertheless, the study pointed to an encouraging trend: Discrimination against women in the workplace is decreasing, at least at some stage of the hiring process. And even faster than people expect. The study also included laymen’s and experts’ predictions about how the results would turn out. And everyone was pleasantly surprised by the find.
“In the Czech Republic, the fact that employers can expect maternity leave in a certain age category is still a strong factor for assessing applicants in a number of professions,” reminds lawyer and trade unionist Šárka Homfray. “Therefore, I would be cautious with the assumption that the identified positive trend is also manifested in the Czech Republic. In any case, these are interesting findings, because every step, even a small one, to reduce the gender segregation of the labor market is desirable and beneficial for the whole society.”
Disadvantage of men in “female” fields persists
“The scientific team that developed the study was aware that they were examining only one moment of the labor process, so there is no reason to take the study and its conclusions as completely exhaustive,” explains Homfray. She also drew attention to an important part of the results: “I don’t find it too surprising to conclude that men could be discriminated against especially when entering feminized positions, there is no reason to pretend that feminized positions are significantly feminized just because men don’t even try to enter them.” “
The study also addresses the issue of discrimination against men in professions that are typically associated with women: nurses, kindergarten teachers, etc. While discrimination against women in “male” fields has gradually decreased and they receive the same number of invitations to interviews today, men face in ” still similar, or even more pronounced discrimination than in the past.
“Some companies seem to have reflected on the long history of discrimination against women and are trying to correct it, but they are forgetting to do the same for men who are applying for positions that are not typical for men,” note the authors of the study.
Another explanation is a change in the general awareness of the population: “In the past, there was a widespread idea that women were less competent, but this idea has already disappeared from public opinion polls. (…) But the idea that men are less communicative than women still persists, not only does it not disappear, but it has even deepened.”
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