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What’s Stopping Female Jobseekers From Landing Interviews? Their ‘A’ Grades, Says Study

May 3, 2018, 6:42 PM UTC

Conventional wisdom suggests that the better the grades, the more likely you are to land job interviews—which in turn could lead to a paying position.

For women though, the same logic may not hold up, according to a study from Ohio State University. The research found that women may in fact be penalized in the job market for being too academically successful, especially if they major in the traditionally male-dominated field of mathematics.

Based on the April study, which submitted 2,106 dummy job applications to over a thousand of entry level positions around the country, male college graduates with higher grades led to more callbacks, with men who achieved the highest grades (A and A-) receiving the most callbacks.

But when it came to women, that trend didn’t hold true. While women who were moderately successful were rewarded with more callbacks, women whose grades rose to an A were in fact less likely to receive a second call. Those women, who had the highest grades possible in the study, not only received a lower rate of callbacks than their B-earning peers—they received even less than men with the lowest grades in the study.

By the numbers, the highest achieving men received callbacks 16% of the time. Meanwhile, their female equivalents were called back just 9% of the time. And the men with the lowest grades, they had a callback rate of about 11.7%.

The divide, according to the study, was even more pronounced among math majors. Male math majors with the highest grades received calls 25% of the time. Women who majored in math and got the same grades only had a callback rate of 8%.

Following surveys with 261 hiring managers, the study’s author, assistant Professor Natasha Quadlin, suggests that applicants are likely being judged based on traditional gender stereotypes, rather than solely by competence.

“Employers value competence and commitment among men applicants, but instead privilege women applicants who are perceived as likable,” she writes.

Likability may help explain why women who had moderately good grades received a higher callback rate compared to their more academically-inclined peers.

“This standard helps moderate-achieving women, who are often described as sociable and outgoing, but hurts high-achieving women, whose personalities are viewed with more skepticism,” Quadlin writes.

Quadlin’s work is not the only study that has highlighted the gender imbalance in the job-seeking game. Research has found that identical resumes with male names were more likely to be called back than their female counterparts—leading some women to use gender neutral names on their CVs.