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Getting the Offer: Sex Discrimation in Hiring


  • Petersen, Trond
  • Togstad, Thea


The hiring process is currently the least understood aspect of the employment relationship. It may be the most important for understanding the broad processes of stratifications with allocation of demographic groups to jobs and firms. The lack of knowledge is due to difficulty of assembling data on the processes that occur at the point of hire. Against this background we analyze data on all applicants to positions in one of the largest Scandinavian banks in 1997-1998, providing what we believe to be the first study using applicant pool data and information about the extended offers in a private-sector European firm, adding to the record about half a dozen such U.S. studies. The hiring agents in the organizations are fully conscious and concerned about the nonconscious biases and gender schemas they carry when making hiring decisions. Their effects on hiring are considered to be beyond dispute: Women are at a clear disadvantage. For actual hiring practices we found that the opposite is true: Women are not a disadvantage and may even be at an advantage in getting offers. Two organizational practices may lead to female advantage. The hiring agents had been educated about the role of nonconscious biases, which perhaps mitigated their effects. But they had also been instructed to search actively for qualified females in the applicant pool. With no qualified females in the first pass, they go through the pool a second and third time hoping to find one. We discuss reasons why the interpretations and meanings the hiring agents attribute to the hiring process are at odds with what actually occurs.

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  • Petersen, Trond & Togstad, Thea, 2006. "Getting the Offer: Sex Discrimation in Hiring," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt1rt913mg, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:indrel:qt1rt913mg

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    2. Bloch, Farrell, 1994. "Antidiscrimination Law and Minority Employment," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226059839.
    3. Rosemary Crompton & Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund, 2000. "Employment and Caring in British and Norwegian Banking: An Exploration through Individual Careers," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 14(2), pages 331-352, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Isabel Fernandez-Mateo & Zella King, 2011. "Anticipatory Sorting and Gender Segregation in Temporary Employment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(6), pages 989-1008, June.
    2. Petersen, Trond & Penner, Andrew M. & Høgnsnes, Geir, 2010. "The Within-Job Motherhood Wage Penalty in Norway, 1979–1996," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt4h8849rq, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    3. Lutter, Mark, 2012. "Wem wird gegeben? Matthäus-Effekte und geschlechtsspezifische Ungleichheiten auf dem Arbeitsmarkt für Filmschauspieler," MPIfG Discussion Paper 12/8, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

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    Sex Discrimination;


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