Congruence between Leadership Gender and Organizational Claims Affects the Gender Composition of the Applicant Pool: Field Experimental Evidence

Columbia Business School professor and one of Poets & Quants' 2019 Best 40 Business School Professors Under 40 Vanessa Burbano put forth a new study with MIT Professor Mabel Abraham positing that leadership gender and organizations' social claims affect the gender composition of applicant pools.

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To uncover the antecedents of workplace gender segregation, scholars have largely focused on how men and women sort into different occupations and industries. Gender segregation does not only vary at the industry level but also at the organizational level, with some firms having greater degrees of segregation than others. This study advances supply-side explanations of gender segregation by drawing on theories of congruence to uncover a unique organization-level driver. We argue and show that congruence between leadership gender and organizational claims is a key mechanism that drives job-seeker interest. Specifically, organizational claims are gender-typed, such that social claims engender the female stereotype whereas business claims engender the male stereotype. Thus, while female-led organizations making social claims are gender congruent, male-led firms making the same claims are gender incongruent. Beyond demonstrating a general jobseeker preference for congruence, we argue and show that female job seekers are most interested in working for organizations that are both congruent and provide credible signals that they are fair and equitable employers. The (in)congruence of leadership gender and organizational claims thus affects the gender composition of applicant pools for otherwise identical jobs.

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