The recruiting process can be muddy to begin with, and even more discouraging for women who are seeking an executive role, due to historically male-dominated leadership positions. So why are women discouraged from re-applying to the role they were rejected from? Would they re-apply to that company in general after a negative recruitment process?
A new study
published in Administrative Science Quarterly entitled “Leaning Out: How Negative Recruitment Experiences Shape Women’s Decisions to Compete for Executive Roles,” aims to explain the reasons why women may be continuously underrepresented in these executive roles.
The article is co-authored by Raina A. Brands and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, both representing the London Business School. The abstract for their article is below:
This paper proposes that gender differences in responses to recruitment rejections contribute to women’s underrepresentation in top management. We theorize and show that women are less likely than men to consider another job with a prospective employer that has rejected them in the past. Because of women’s status as a negatively stereotyped minority in senior roles, recruitment rejection triggers uncertainty about their general belonging in the executive domain, which in turn leads women to place greater weight than men on fair treatment and negatively affects their perceptions of the fairness of the treatment they receive. This dual process makes women less inclined than men to apply again to a firm that has rejected them. We test our theory with three studies: a field study using longitudinal archival data from an executive search firm, a survey of executives, and an experiment using executive respondents testing the effects of rejection on willingness to apply to a firm for another position. The results have implications for theory and practice regarding gender inequality at the labor market’s upper echelons, highlighting that women’s supply-side decisions to “lean out” of competition for senior roles must be understood in light of their previous experiences with employers’ demand-side practices. Given the sequential nature of executive selection processes, rejection-driven differences in the willingness to compete in a given round would affect the proportion of available women in subsequent selection rounds, contributing to a cumulative gender disadvantage and thus possibly increasing gender inequality over time.