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Job Interviews Biased Against Women, Study Finds

By Media Executive

Job Interviews Biased Against Women, Study Finds

Women face a tougher time in job interviews and are interrupted more than men, a study has found.

New research found that on average, women faced five questions in which they were interrupted by the interviewer, whereas their male counterparts only faced four.

Female academics also received two more follow-up questions, and 17 in total, which was at least three more than a typical male interviewee, meaning they spent a “higher proportion” of their time fielding queries.

The study, published in the journal of Social Sciences, involved analysing job interviews at two leading US universities – University of California and University of Southern California – over a two-year-period.

The report stated: “Questions piled on to previous questions…may indicate a challenge to the presenter’s competence – not only in their prepared talk but also in their response to questions.

“Even shortlisted women with impressive CVs may still be assumed to be less competent, are challenged, sometimes excessively, and therefore have less time to present a coherent and compelling talk.

“[These] subtle conversational patterns…form an almost invisible bias, which allows a climate of challenging women’s competence to persist.”

The good news is that the law recognises and protects against such discrimination. I speak to many people who feel sure they are being discriminated against, but are worried about making a complaint because they feel they don’t have any obvious evidence.

The news follows Price Waterhouse Cooper's announcement that women employed in its UK operations earn on average 14 per cent less and receive smaller bonuses than their male contemporaries, and the gender pay gap between those working at the Department for Education (DfE) being reported now at 5.9 per cent.

Clare Armstrong, an employment law specialist at Slater and Gordon, said: “I’m sure many women identify with this article and recognise some of the behaviours identified in the interviewers. The study reports an ‘almost invisible bias’. It would have been interesting if the study had questioned the interviewers on whether they had any awareness of their own different styles of interviewing. I expect they did not, or if they did they would be extremely reluctant to own up to it.

"Discrimination that occurs in the modern workplace is often subtle, which can make it difficult to detect and even more difficult to do something about. To determine whether discrimination has occurred, it is necessary to consider the conscious and subconscious mental processes of a decision maker. These can be difficult to determine but inferences can be drawn from surrounding facts. Sometimes a pattern emerges to show that people of a particular characteristic – in this study, sex – are treated differently from others. Sometimes even the most affable and honest individuals can be discriminatory without even knowing it. It is great to see female undergraduates are getting such support at the start of their careers. However, the results of this study shows that there is still more work to do be done to educate and make people more aware of their own subconscious bias.

“The good news is that the law recognises and protects against such discrimination. I speak to many people who feel sure they are being discriminated against, but are worried about making a complaint because they feel they don’t have any obvious evidence. Take heart – this is not uncommon. Sometimes a careful examination of all the surrounding circumstances reveals some surprising conclusions.”