Women are taking control of their professional lives more than ever, specifically when it comes to where they apply.
New research shows that women are still grossly underrepresented in a myriad of industries and the blame mostly lies on the employer. As Forbes’s Kim Elsesser pointed out, the data showed that if the earliest hiring decisions at a new company exclude women, which they often do, then the organization will have difficulty attracting female talent in the future. As a result, entrepreneurial companies that start with gender disparities have a tough time correcting the imbalance.
The data was published in the Academy of Management Journal, and analyzed over a half million job-seeker decisions made by more than 8,000 people from a startup job-search app. The potential applicants could swipe right or left on a job based on its description, in the vein of Tinder.
The researchers found that male-dominated startups attracted fewer women. When women made up less than 15% of an organization’s workforce, female applicants were almost 30% less likely to apply than their male counterparts. The more gender-balanced the organization, the more likely women were to apply. For organizations where women represented more than a third of the workforce, the gender composition of the company no longer had a significant impact on the gender gap in job applications.
Interestingly, only 15% of the workforce in more than one in five startups in the study had women working there, a clear indication of a need for diversity at these new companies. Upon taking an even closer look at the results, it’s evident that if men make up the vast majority of the job’s team, then women don’t enter the candidate pool, furthering the problem.
“Hiring decisions are made by the founders themselves rather than professionals experienced in recruitment and hiring,” said Yuval Engel, Lead author of the research and professor at the University of Amsterdam in an interview with Forbes. “These founders often gravitate towards recruiting from their personal networks and do not typically invest in any formalized policies or procedures to protect themselves from bias.”
The issue bodes even worse for Black women, who have consistently left the corporate workforce for a myriad of reasons, including being faced with microaggressions and discrimination.
As the Insider reported, the percentage of Black women in the labor force dropped from 60.5% in 2019 to 58.8% in 2020, the largest annual decrease for the group, per the Department of Labor.
To help mitigate this issue, Engel says new companies should focus on representation from day one. “Our findings indicate that startups should pay attention to gender diversity from the first hire,” he told Forbes. “Without attention and intentional effort to escape the default choices of hiring more men, startups will lack gender diversity as they grow, pushing women away and eventually limiting the talent pools these companies can draw from.”