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Gender Stereotypes, Same-Gender Preferences, And Organizational Variation In The Hiring Of Women: Evidence From Law Firms

Elizabeth H. Gorman

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Laboratory studies have shown that stereotypes and in-group favoritism influence people's perceptions and evaluations of others, but empirical research has not yet linked these processes to gender disparities in real workplace outcomes. This study proposes that the gender stereotypicality of selection criteria and decision makers' same-gender preferences operate to intensify gender inequality in hiring. These arguments are tested with data on large U.S. law firms in the mid-1990s. The findings show that when selection criteria include a greater number of stereotypically masculine characteristics, women constitute a smaller proportion of new hires, and that, conversely, when criteria include more stereotypically feminine traits, women are better represented among new hires. Female decision makers also fill more vacancies with women than do male decision makers, but among entry-level hires, this effect diminishes as women's share of high-ranking positions increases toward gender balance.