Study shows strong gender bias in hiring for jobs involving basic math

Employment in the scientific and mathematical fields remains largely dominated by men, despite the gradual gender equalization that has occurred in many other industries in recent decades. A recent study suggests that this discrepancy may be due in part to gender bias on the part of the people doing the hiring.

Men hired twice as often as women

In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences in March 2014, researchers found that male applicants were twice as likely as female applicants to be selected for positions involving basic mathematical tasks - even though those tasks could be performed equally well on average by both men and women.

The researchers conducted three different versions of an experiment in which participants were divided into two groups: employers and job candidates. Those acting as employers were asked to make hiring decisions for the "job" of quickly adding up a series of two-digit numbers. As an incentive to hire the best candidates for the job, the employers were told that they would make more money if the candidates they hired outperformed those who were not hired.

Even hard data does not eliminate gender bias

In the first version of the experiment, the managers were asked to make hiring decisions based solely on photographs of the candidates. In this version, the employers - both male and female - were twice as likely to hire a man as a woman. In a second version of the experiment, the applicants were asked to predict their own job performance. Again, the employers hired male candidates twice as often as women.

In a third version of the experiment, the employers were given information about each candidate's actual performance on the tasks required by the job. Even when this information was available, however, the employers still hired men 1.5 times more often than women. These findings suggest that gender discrimination may be a significant factor in hiring decisions for positions involving mathematical skill. They also illustrate the fact that women can and do discriminate against other women in hiring decisions, whether or not they do so consciously.

California gender discrimination laws

California workers are protected under both state and federal laws from gender discrimination in the workplace. These laws protect against gender bias not only in terms of hiring and firing, but also with regard to promotions, assignments, training opportunities, job responsibilities, benefits and all other terms or conditions of employment. In addition, these laws protect workers from being fired, demoted or otherwise penalized by employers for objecting to discriminatory practices.

Workers or job applicants in California who suspect they have been affected by retaliation or gender discrimination are advised to discuss the situation with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer to learn about the possibility of seeking a remedy through the legal system.