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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The salience of gender in the assessment of job candidates Sigerson, Kirsten


Status Characteristics theory predicts that gender will become salient and activate different performance expectations for men and women in situations where either (1) performers are in a mixed-sex group or (2) gender is explicitly linked to the task at hand, or (3) both. This prediction has been clearly supported by previous studies in this field. The present experiment explores whether gender is so fundamental in person perception that it will still be a basis for judgement in the absence of the foregoing conditions. Subjects made competence and suitability assessments, as well as hiring and salary recommendations, about student applicants vying for engineering jobs. Each assessor, either male or female, was given two files (order varied) to review in succession, one from an "average" candidate, the other from an "outstanding" one. In each case the applicant was either male or female. As predicted, results indicated a main effect due to level of performance on all four dependent measures, whereby the superior candidate was recommended for the position more often than the mediocre one, given a higher starting salary, and seen as more competent and more suitable for the job. Although there were no sex of candidate effects with respect to competence and suitability rankings, nor with hiring recommendations, effects of candidate's sex still persisted regarding salary. On this variable, results demonstrated a significant interaction whereby subjects favoured the male candidate at the average level, but the female candidate at the superior one. Further analysis on this factor revealed that a sex difference existed as well; that is, in evaluating average performers, men were biased in favour of male applicants, while in the assessment of outstanding performers, it was women who gave preferential treatment to members of their own sex. Implications of these findings are discussed in the context of the scope conditions of status characteristics theory.

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