Glass Floors and Glass Ceilings: The Effect of Pairing Job Applicants with Same-Sex Versus Opposite-Sex Evaluators in Job Interviews

Authors
Lauren Rivera,
Jayanti Owens
Year of publication
2018
When do sex-based ingroup and outgroup preference occur in hiring? Sociologists frequently describe ingroup preference as a powerful driver of sex inequalities in organizations. Yet, existing empirical evidence suggests a more complicated story. In some cases, male and female managers display ingroup bias, in some cases they display outgroup bias, and in other cases the sex of the manager makes little difference. Using new microlevel data on job interview evaluations from a large, professional service organization, we help resolve these seemingly contradictory effects by identifying three factors that influence when hiring agents display in-group or out-group preference: the sex of the applicant, the applicant’s perceived skill level, and the sex-typing of the skills being evaluated. We find that interviewer sex is consequential only for evaluations of women applicants. For women, however, the effect of having a male or female interviewer varies strikingly based on their perceived skill levels in stereotypically masculine domains. We observe strong ingroup preference for women perceived to be low in stereotypically masculine skills, but significant outgroup preference for women perceived to be high in stereotypically masculine skills. Consequently, we argue that evaluator-applicant sex similarity operates not only as a glass floor that prevents women low in stereotypically masculine skills from falling below a certain scoring threshold, but also as a glass ceiling that prevents women most skilled on these dimensions from receiving the highest hiring recommendations and, in highly selective, stereotypically masculine occupations, receiving job offers.
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Suggested Citation:

Rivera, L., & Owens, J. (2018). Glass Floors and Glass Ceilings: The Effect of Pairing Job Applicants with Same-Sex Versus Opposite-Sex Evaluators in Job Interviews