The Mark of a Woman’s Record: Gender and Academic Performance in Hiring

Source: Natasha Quadlin, American Sociological Review, Volume 83, Number: 2, April 2018
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From the abstract:
Women earn better grades than men across levels of education—but to what end? This article assesses whether men and women receive equal returns to academic performance in hiring. I conducted an audit study by submitting 2,106 job applications that experimentally manipulated applicants’ GPA, gender, and college major. Although GPA matters little for men, women benefit from moderate achievement but not high achievement. As a result, high-achieving men are called back significantly more often than high-achieving women—at a rate of nearly 2-to-1. I further find that high-achieving women are most readily penalized when they major in math: high-achieving men math majors are called back three times as often as their women counterparts. A survey experiment conducted with 261 hiring decision-makers suggests that these patterns are due to employers’ gendered standards for applicants. Employers value competence and commitment among men applicants, but instead privilege women applicants who are perceived as likeable. This standard helps moderate-achieving women, who are often described as sociable and outgoing, but hurts high-achieving women, whose personalities are viewed with more skepticism. These findings suggest that achievement invokes gendered stereotypes that penalize women for having good grades, creating unequal returns to academic performance at labor market entry.