Male managerial potential preferred to female proven track record

Male job applicants who are perceived to have high levels of leadership potential are rated as a better employment prospect than women with proven leadership track records suggests a study funded by a 2014 British Psychological Society (BPS) Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme grant.

This is the finding of a study by undergraduate student Fatima Tresh, Dr Georgina Randsley de Moura and Abigail Player from the University of Kent that will presented today, Wednesday 6 May at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Liverpool. The study was funded by a 2014 BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme. The scheme marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic.

The study, undertaken by undergraduate student Fatima Tresh, Dr Georgina Randsley de Moura and Abigail Player from the University of Kent involved a total of 98 participants (39 women) participating in an online hiring simulation. Each participant was shown four potential applicants for a managerial role with roughly the same age. The applications differed by varying the applicant’s gender and assessments of leadership potential and leadership achievement. Participants evaluated each applicant for how successful they thought each would be in their career and which had the most impressive CV.

Male applicants with leadership potential were most likely to be seen as successful and having the most impressive CV. Also, the findings suggested that men with leadership potential were rated higher than men with leadership performance. However, female applicants with potential were not rated higher than those with performance.

Abigail said: “The findings have implications for gender equality in the workplace and provide initial evidence that women’s leadership potential is not recognised by potential employers. This is a significant barrier to career progression and success for women.” 

The BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. Awards are made to researchers (not directly to the student) to allow them to provide an undergraduate with hands-on experience of research during a summer vacation, to gain an insight into scientific research and to encourage them to consider an academic career. The 2016 round of applications opens in November.

The study was presented at the BPS 2015 Annual Conference in Liverpool.

The Society makes a number of awards available each year to recognise excellence in research, practice teaching and education in psychology. They range from awards for A Level students to those marking achievement over the length of a professional career.

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