Written by Emily Redler ‘20
When you go in for an interview, there are many factors that can affect whether or not you get hired. Some of these factors may subconsciously affect your interviewer, and many of them are inherent – you can’t do anything to change them. Some examples of these factors include gender, marital status, and sexual orientation. It’s been well-established that gender can affect hiring rates – women are often less likely to be hired than men. It’s also been established that marital status can affect hiring rates, and that the effects can change based on your gender (Jordan et al., 2012). In addition, sexual orientation has been established to have an effect on hiring rates, and often people are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation (Ragins & Cornwell, 2001; Ruggs et al., 2013). All three of these factors are closely related, so researchers for this study (Nadler & Kufahl, 2014) were interested in how these factors work together to influence in hiring.
This study consisted of 365 participants. Each participant acted as a Human Resources manager and read a job description for a Marketing Manager. Next, they watched one randomly assigned video interview clip of either a man or a woman who was either married or not married and who was either heterosexual or homosexual. In the clip, the applicants were asked whether they would be willing to relocate. Their scripted answers were always “yes,” but they had different reasons based on their marital status/sexual orientation. For the married people, they said: “No, I am more than willing to move. My spouse (John/Lisa) is currently between jobs and is more than willing to relocate. Plus we do not have any children yet, so relocating is not a concern.” For the single condition, they said: “No, I am more than willing to move. I broke up with my spouse (John/Lisa) 6 months ago so I am currently single, plus I do not have any children yet, so relocating is not a concern.”
The participants read over the résumé of the “applicant” (the résumés only varied with the name of the applicant) and then was given a questionnaire about whether or not they would hire this person. Researchers hypothesized that male applicants overall would be more likely to be hired, heterosexual applicants overall would be more likely to be hired, and that there would be relationships between the three factors.
Interestingly, results no overall differences between the groups. However, there were significant interactions between the factors. Lesbian women received higher ratings when they were single and heterosexual women received higher ratings when they were married (see Figure 1). In addition, homosexual single women received higher ratings than their male counterparts (see Figure 2).
Figure 1. Differences between married and single female participants by sexual orientation. *Note: scores range from 1 (less likely to hire) to 7 (more likely to hire).
Figure 2. Differences between single homosexual participants by gender.
*Note: scores range from 1 (less likely to hire) to 7 (more likely to hire).
These findings have many implications. Firstly, sexual orientation had an interaction with marital status only for women, which shows that marital status matters a lot more for women than men. This suggest that there are social roles attached to these three factors, and somehow being single and homosexual go together in one social role and being married and heterosexual go together in another. In addition, the fact that, when sexual orientation is taken into account, single women are rated significantly higher than men shows that men are more likely to be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation than women.
Overall, this study shows that there’s still a lot of work to do in hiring to stop discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, and that marital status can affect this in interesting and inconsistent ways.
Jordan, A. H., College, D., & Zitek, E. M. (2012). Marital status bias in perceptions of employees. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 34, 474 – 481.
Ragins, B. R., & Cornwell, J. M. (2001). Pink triangles: Antecedents and consequences of perceived workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian employees. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1244–1261. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.86.6.1244
Ruggs, E. N., Law, C., Cox, C., Roehling, M. V., Wiener, R. L., Hebl, M. R., & Barron, L. (2013). Gone fishing: I-O psychologists’ missed opportunities to understand marginalized employees’ experiences with discrimination. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 6, 39–60. doi:10.1111/iops.12007
Nadler, J. T., & Kufahl, K. M. (2014). Marital status, gender, and sexual orientation: Implications for employment hiring decisions. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity,1(3), 270-278. doi:10.1037/sgd0000050
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