A new study shows that women who have faced rejection in executive-level jobs are less likely to apply for jobs at a similar level.
The study surveyed 10,000 female executives in the UK, and found that while men were also less likely to apply for executive level jobs after having faced rejection, the effect was 1.5 times as strong among women.
The most common complaint that the authors found is that women were not happy with how recruitment processes were managed. A lot of women felt that they were being asked to apply for top-level jobs, not because of their skills or experience, but because the company needed more women to be represented for the shortlist.
The researchers add that the women do not feel like they aren’t good enough, they just don’t think the recruitment process is fair.
In an article for the Harvard Business review, the study’s authors, Raina Brands and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, highlight ways in which a company can improve its gender diversity at senior levels.
Companies must “avoid the temptation to solely focus on encouraging more women to throw their hat into the ring”, say the authors.
Blanket encouragements could backfire, say the authors.
Instead, the company should take a relook at their recruitment processes. The company could give appropriate feedback to those it rejects, it can look at the signals it sends to men and women who are rejected. It can try and promote diversity by initiating a culture of belonging.
Women’s decisions to remove themselves from competition after having been rejected is driven partly by their experience of being a negatively stereotyped minority in the executive labour market, say the authors.
And the implications for this applies to any minority, insist the authors. Minorities will take rejection as a signal that they are not being perceived as legitimate leaders.
Studies have shown that women are just as ambitious as their male peers at the beginning of their careers.
“When it comes to gender diversity, it’s not so much a matter of getting women to lean in; it’s more a matter of preventing them from leaning out,” say the authors.