Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hiring Decisions: The Mother Penalty, The Father Bonus

At least on a theoretical basis, two Cornell sociologists have determined both exist. Their recently presented study showed the following ranking (from best to worst) in terms of hiring decisions and starting salaries: fathers, childless women, childless men, mothers. The report discussed at Two New Studies Look at Mothers -- and Smokers -- in the Workplace - also reported on another study, that smokers earn less than over the long term than non-smokers.

But it was the mother, father discussion that caught my eye, particularly given the way the study was done:

[The sociologists] created resumes and human-resource department memos for candidates for an executive-level marketing job in a communications startup. The resumes contained effectively identical qualifications. Correll and Benard then added features to distinguish the candidates. On some resumes, they indicated that the candidate served in a parent-teacher association. On others, they said he (or she) served in a neighborhood association. The HR memos also included notations on whether a candidate was a parent or married. Correll and Benard used names to flag candidates' gender. Some were given typically male names while others received typically female ones.
The scholars hired college students to act as screeners, telling them that the hiring company marketed to young people and thus wanted their input in its hiring decisions. They gave each student a pair of resumes -- two women or two men; one a parent, the other not -- and instructed them to rank the candidates and even propose starting salaries. They also asked them to suggest how many late arrivals at work a candidate should be allowed before being penalized.

On every measure but one, mothers scored lower than everyone else. (On the number of late arrivals allowed, they tied with men without kids.) Mothers were ranked as less competent and committed and least likely to be promoted. And they were offered lower starting salaries.

Other research data in their paper indicates that in prior research college undergraduates' ratings of candidates tended to mirror that of professionals. If that is true, not sure how employers guard against this type of decision making intruding into their own hiring process, but knowledge might be a start.

A hat tip to Heath Row at Fast Company for the link.

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