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Horrifying New Study Finds a Woman Has Zero Chance of Getting Hired If She’s Up Against Men

Horrifying New Study Finds a Woman Has Zero Chance of Getting Hired If She’s Up Against Men

By Jillian Kramer

If you really want a job, you better hope your main competition is female. Why? According to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, a woman up against only male candidates has zero chance of snagging that coveted position. Yes, you read that right: zero chance.

Researchers with the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business asked 200 undergraduates to review the applications of equally-qualified candidates for a single role. They found that when they whittled the candidates down to four finalist options — one woman and three men — the undergrads overwhelmingly chose a man to do the job. Of women's chances against men, the researchers write, "their odds of being hired were statistically zero."

When the researchers created a new status quo among the finalist candidates, however—adding just one more woman to the pool—the decision makers were more likely to consider hiring a woman candidate, the researchers wrote. More so, the study concluded: "When two of the three finalists were women, participants tended to recommend hiring a woman." Bottom line, it's not being a woman that makes getting a job difficult — it's being a woman in a pool of all-male candidates.

So why does a woman competing against men stick out like an unqualified thumb? "For one thing," the researchers write, "it highlights how different she is from the norm. And deviating from the norm can be risky for decision makers, as people tend to ostracize people who are different from the group. For women and minorities, having your differences made salient can also lead to inferences of incompetence."

Unfortunately, there's not much women can do to change that bias — and we've got no control over how many women make that final candidate pool. The responsibility falls to hiring managers. "Managers need to know that working to get one woman or minority considered for a position might be futile, because the odds are likely slim if they are the lone woman or nonwhite candidate," the researchers write. "But if managers can change the status quo of the finalist pool by including two women, then the women have a fighting chance."

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• Why Women Make Better CEOs
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