UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Organizational determinants of the use of sex in hiring decisions : a case study Erickson, Linda Diane Lindgre


The lack of sexual discrimination in hiring employees has been observed to be a function of organizational policies with respect to discrimination, the degree to which policies are communicated to members and adhered to by senior members, and the bureaucratization of hiring decisions. When the organization does not establish both a commitment to equal employment opportunities for women and men and the procedures to carry out that commitment, individual bias and beliefs about sex and work performance are used in selection. These beliefs pertain to the relation between the sex of the employee and job qualifications and the differential work performance of men and women workers. These beliefs, when systematically examined, however, are not supported empirically. An in-depth study of hiring practices was conducted in one organization, utilizing a number of research techniques. Demographic data for the labour force as a whole and descriptive statistical data for the organization studied were utilized to demonstrate the degree and persistence of the sex-segregation of occupations. Formal documents, records and policies of the organization pertaining to hiring were examined, and following a one month period of observation in the Personnel Office, loosely structured interviews were conducted with the Personnel officers. Then, to permit a more detailed examination of hiring practices, interviews were conducted with supervisors hiring employees for a sample of twenty-four positions. It was found that the organization does not have explicit policies against discrimination and that there are no written procedures governing the communication of job openings to applicants. Further, the procedures for selecting among applicants were demonstrated to be inadequate to insure unbiased selection. The lack of developed policies and procedures was attributed in part to the work load of the Personnel Office, the distribution of responsibility and authority for hiring in the organization, and the consequent decentralization of decision-making. In lieu of formal, standardized procedures for recruitment and selection, informal and sex-biased standards have developed. The differential communication of job openings to female and male applicants reflects the sex-typing of jobs in the organization. Job requirements and selection criteria are primarily defined by supervisors in individual departments and routinely include the specification of the sex of acceptable applicants. This specification is demonstrated to be based on contradictory and untested beliefs about the differential capabilities of women and men workers. Some limitations of the research project and suggestions for future research are discussed. The implications of these findings for a restructuring of the hiring process to restrict;: the use of sex are also discussed.

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