Eliminating gender preferences in offers means more diversity at work

Study found that by not leaning more towards men or women, the hiring of the latter for positions previously conceived as male increased by 2.5 percentage points.

The Chilean and Austrian labor markets have something in common: in neither of them can a person’s gender be a requirement in a job offer. In 2005, the European country launched a campaign to raise awareness about this among employers and newspapers. At that time, more than 40% of the vacancies in the main job bank specified whether they preferred men or women, but in one year it fell below 5%.

This experiment was studied by David Card, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics and Berkeley academic, together with Rafael Lalive and Fabrizio Colella, from the School of Higher Business Studies at the U. de Lausanne (HEC Lausanne). The analysis became the paper “Gender Preferences in Job Vacancies and Gender Diversity in the Workplace”.

The researchers found that, before the campaign, most of the preferences matched the gender composition of the company. They found that eliminating male or female biases reduced gender segregation in roughly 16% of previously prioritized workplaces.

The document showed that after the elimination of preferences, the fraction of women hired for positions with a previous male inclination increased by 2.5 percentage points.

And, the hiring of men in positions previously preconceived for women rose by 1 pp.

Colella, a PhD candidate in Economics at HEC Lausanne, explains that the main reason behind this is changes in the pool of applicants for the job. It says that the elimination of preferences encouraged women to apply for jobs that were previously aimed at men, and vice versa. This implied that the companies received more heterogeneous profiles, which affected the hiring decision. “Many stereotypical preferences observed before the campaign were probably based on outdated track records, rather than true gender gaps in productivity,” he said.

There is still bias

Valentina Paredes, an academic at the Faculty of Economics and Business of the U. de Chile, suggests that although gender is not used as a requirement to apply for a job, it is possible that the ads have preferences by gender.

She says that it would be relevant to study the issue, and while she explains that there is no single measure that ensures diversity, she argues that women who are trained should be able to run for office.

The Ph.D. in economics at Berkeley argues that for this the language of the ads matters. It also suggests distributing job offers in a way that reaches women, for example, in professional women’s networks.

“It is important at the time of the interviews and the evaluation of the curriculum to be careful with the implicit biases of the evaluators,” he says. And he adds that other countries have forced companies to make their gender gaps public, so that, with real information, firms can take action.

For Luna Bratti, economist at the Diego Portales University Economic Context Observatory, quota policies “will always be the first step to achieve a more egalitarian society.”

“It is necessary a change of thought and that men and women have the same responsibilities and burdens in domestic and parenting matters, so that both can have similar job opportunities,” he says.

He emphasizes that although Chile “lacks a lot in some aspects”, such as wages and employment rates, “we are on the right track.” She exemplifies with university degrees, and says that you can see that there are more women studying areas that were previously “absolutely” dominated by men and vice versa.



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Eliminating gender preferences in offers means more diversity at work

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