"Manly" Women Viewed as More Qualified for Male-Dominated Jobs

August 11, 2014
Aimee Simone, Associate Editor

A study finds that women who describe themselves with masculine qualities may be more likely to be hired for jobs traditionally held by men.

A study finds that women who describe themselves with masculine qualities may be more likely to be hired for jobs traditionally held by men.

Women looking to land jobs in male-dominated fields should emphasize qualities that are traditionally associated with masculinity, new research suggests.

In a study published online July 25, 2014, in Psychology of Women Quarterly, researchers from Michigan State University aimed to determine factors related to gender bias among women applying for job positions in traditionally masculine fields. In the laboratory study, 674 participants evaluated a female or male applicant applying for a top management position in engineering. The researchers analyzed whether verbal strategies, such as describing oneself with stereotypically masculine traits and acknowledging gender, affected how women were evaluated.

The results indicated stressing traits typically associated with men were linked to better evaluations for women. Women who described themselves with masculine terms, such as “assertive,” “independent” and “achievement-oriented,” were more seen as a better fit for the job than those who used descriptors associated with femininity, such as “warm,” “supportive,” “and nurturing.”

Hiring managers may value these “masculine” qualities because they are looking for more aggressive employees regardless of gender, suggested Ann Marie Ryan, PhD, co-author of the study, in a press release.

“We found that ‘manning up’ seemed to be an effective strategy, because it was seen as necessary for the job,” Ryan said.

The study also found that both male and female applicants who acknowledged their gender were viewed negatively.

Ultimately, individuals are not responsible for ensuring they are treated fairly when searching for a job, Ryan said. The findings of the study, however, could help jobseekers combat discrimination.

“Companies and recruiters should make sure they are not exhibiting discriminatory screening practices,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of advice out there for applicants to help combat this type of bias, but our research is aimed at figuring out what kind of advice is beneficial and what kind of advice may harm you.”

Although bias during the hiring process and in the workplace continues to be a problem, pharmacy was named the most egalitarian profession in a 2012 report from Harvard University.