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‘Male traits’ are more likely to get you an interview

Published: 14 March 2018 at 11:30

The words 'curriculum vitae' typed on a sheet of paper

New study found certain characteristics lead to greater likelihood of being shortlisted

Women who display so-called male personality traits such as assertiveness, dominance and aggressiveness are more likely to enjoy success in the job market and earn higher wages, according to new research.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University submitted pairs of written job applications for vacant, entry level posts in London between January and July 2017. Each application was made out in the profile of a female unmarried, white, 21-year-old in the third year of a degree in either Psychology, Business Studies or Education.

In half of the applications, women were self-characterised as portraying leadership traits, and a willingness to take risks – these are perceived to be male personality traits. The other half of applications saw the woman self-characterise as being gentle, friendly and affectionate.

The results showed that the women demonstrating so-called male personality traits were shortlisted for more highly-paid positions – an annual salary of £27,260 compared to £26,148, a difference of 4%. Wage differentials were highest for vacancies in the business sector at 4.87%.

Women showing more “masculine” characteristics were also 28.2% more likely to be invited to interview for a position in the social services field, 24.6% more likely in the business sector, and 22.8% more likely in education – showing that they have an advantage in both male and female-dominated occupations.

Dr Nick Drydakis, co-author of the research and Reader in Economics at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“Our research shows that women who conform to ‘feminine’ personality traits received fewer interview opportunities and were given lower-paid positions. This is even more likely to be the case in male-dominated professions like business.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first field experiment to examine the effect of ‘male and female’ personality traits on entry-level pay scales.

“The market currently rewards the specific traits stereotypically attributed to men. Therefore, employees exhibiting ‘feminine’ personality traits may experience discriminatory workplace practices.”

The study, Masculine vs Feminine Personality Traits and Women’s Employment Outcomes in Britain: A Field Experiment, has been published as an IZA discussion paper and will appear in a forthcoming edition of the International Journal of Manpower.