High-achieving female college grads may be penalized in the job market, according to a new study
Straight A’s pay off — unless you’re a woman, a new study suggests.
High-achieving female college grads may be penalized in the job market, according to Ohio State University research that examined the link between academic performance and hiring. Employers were nearly twice as likely to contact high-achieving male applicants as they were to reach out to high-achieving women, the study found — and seemed to favor moderate-achieving, “likeable” women over top performers.
The research, conducted by OSU assistant professor Natasha Quadlin and published in the journal American Sociological Review, also found women who majored in math faced a particularly steep penalty: Their high-achieving male counterparts got called back three times as frequently. “(H)igh-achieving women may be most readily penalized when they demonstrate achievement in STEM fields where they are underrepresented and expected to perform poorly,” the professor speculated. High-achieving women majoring in business and English didn’t suffer a significant penalty.
Quadlin employed an “audit study” and survey experiment: In the résumé audit study, she sent out 2,106 made-up job applications for entry-level positions around the country, manipulating the gender, age, college major and GPA of each applicant. While male applicants had similar callback outcomes regardless of grades, moderate-achieving women did better than both their low-achieving and high-achieving counterparts.
The survey experiment, which replicated the previous study with 261 people who routinely make hiring decisions, asked respondents to review résumés and assess whether they would recommend the candidate for an interview. It also asked for their perceptions of applicants’ competence, likeability, hard work, commitment and social skills. Employers prized commitment and competence among male jobseekers, Quadlin found, but women fared better if employers perceived them as likeable. (Moderate-achieving women were considered more socially adept and likeable, the study found.)
“We like to think that we’ve progressed past gender inequality, but it’s still there. The study suggests that women who didn’t spend a lot of time on academics but are ‘intelligent enough’ have an advantage over women who excel in school,” Quadlin said in a release. “There’s a particularly strong bias against female math majors — women who flourish in male-dominated fields — perhaps because they’re violating gender norms in terms of what they’re supposed to be good at.”
Despite her depressing findings, the prof doesn’t recommend shooting for the middle; rather, she recommended high-GPA women seek out bosses who value them. “These are the people who will be advocates for you throughout your career — those who support you early on and appreciate your intelligence and hard work,” she said.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved